The hearing on an application for the Princeton International Academy Charter School (PIACS) has been continued yet again, this time until Thursday, July 7, about a week before the school needs to meet a state deadline for obtaining a certificate of occupancy.
As a result of the tight deadline, PIACS officials have told reporters they believe the school will not open in South Brunswick in September, although they are looking at other locations in the Princeton and West Windsor-Plainsboro area that would not require zoning approval.
PIACS spokesman Parker Block said “we are continuing to move forward with the process for 12 Perrine.”
“This location will hopefully serve as the facility location for the long term,” he added. “However, due to the tight timeframe, we understand that we will need to find a temporary solution for the first year. We are working on this and hope to have everything done in time for the DOE deadline.”
He said chances are 50-50 the school will open in September.
The charter school has faced opposition since it won approval by the state Department of Education in January, 2010 to educate students from the Princeton, South Brunswick, and WW-P school districts. The school will be the first to offer an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum framework as well as dual language Mandarin-English immersion.
Officials and residents in the West Windsor-Plainsboro, South Brunswick, and Princeton school districts have been fighting the school’s opening because of the per-pupil costs they would have to send to the charter school when it opens.
PIACS has until June 30 to obtain a certificate of occupancy for the South Brunswick location — 12 Perrine Road, near the Plainsboro border — that currently serves as a liquor distribution warehouse.
It was originally scheduled to open in September, 2010, but WW-P officials were among those who fought a prior PIACS application to the Plainsboro Zoning Board last summer, when it proposed to open at St. Joseph’s Seminary on Mapleton Road. But a discrepancy in notice requirements was found by the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district and recognized by the Zoning Board. The discrepancy prevented the charter school from opening in September.
As a result, PIACS was granted an extension by the state Department of Education. If PIACS does not open this year, the state could extend its deadline for an occupancy permit until Thursday, July 15. If no extension is granted, PIACS would have to reapply to the DOE for a new charter.
The charter school’s application before the South Brunswick Zoning Board has already spanned two meetings, the most recent on June 2, when South Brunswick officials voted after hours of testimony to continue the hearing on July 7.
The application on behalf of the charter school was made by 12 P & Associates LLC, of Lake Drive in Princeton, which is also listed as the contract purchaser. Critics of the school have noted that the Helena May, a former PIACS trustee, is the owner of 12 P & Associates.
The application is also for a private school, the YingHua Day School, which would move to the location. PIACS lead founder Bonnie Liao founded the private school in 2007. She insisted that the charter school will not subsidize the private school and that each school would be a separate entity, and that everything was being done legally.
Opponents have questioned how the building is going to be divided by the charter school and the private school, which is owned by the same person. Residents and zoning officials also questioned whether the proposed location could handle 70 cars dropping off and picking up students attending both schools.
The facility at 12 Perrine Road is about 41,000-square feet. PIACS would occupy 13,780-square-feet, while YingHua would occupy 2,115-square-feet.