Last month, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson ordered the state to advance Chester Upland $3.2 million, keeping it open for now. But the district and charter school say they need millions more.
Thursday's meeting, held at Baylson's urging, was to hear proposals from the district, the charter school, and attorneys representing Chester Community parents and children on how much funding it would take for the schools' doors to stay open for the rest of the school year.
Tomalis is scheduled to issue a report or a settlement agreement by March 10 on how much funding the schools need and the sources of the additional funding.
Stephen Harmelin, a lawyer with Dilworth Paxson L.L.P. who is representing the Education Department, said Thursday that more discussions would take place before then. "This is just the beginning," he said.
Chester Upland and Chester Community issued a statement before the meeting saying they would need $13.2 million from the state. They said $8.7 million could come from forgiving or restructuring a loan the department gave Chester Upland last year. An additional $4.5 million could come from a state empowerment fund that has been allocated to Chester Upland in past years, or from other state funds.
The district and the charter said they would cut expenses for the remainder of the school year; the district offered to reduce spending about $4 million, and Chester Community would cut $3.3 million.
Under the proposal, the Widener Partnership Charter school, which has 328 students, most from Chester Upland, would also reduce its spending half a million dollars. Other charters serving district students would take a $400,000 cut, said district spokesman Joel Avery. "Everybody would get something, as opposed to possibly getting nothing," he said.
Widener spokesman Dan Hanson said that neither the charter nor Widener was involved in crafting the proposal. He declined further comment.
Harmelin said he was "saddened to see [that the district and Chester Community] released a letter before they walked in the door. Running negotiations that way is not a particularly good way to reach a resolution," he said.
He added that Tomalis "remains committed to the process and to make sure students receive the education they deserve."
Representatives of the Delaware County Intermediate Unit were also at the meeting; Chester Upland owes it more than $1 million for special-education services to district children.
Contact staff writer Dan Hardy at 215-854-2612, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @DanInq.