Future of Laboratory Charter School in Philadelphia could be in doubt

Laboratory Charter School on North Oriana Street —  and two other locations in Philadelphia —  has been recommended for non-renewal. (<a href=Photo via Google Maps) " title="Screen shot 2017-04-25 at 3.22.12 PM" width="1" height="1"/>

Laboratory Charter School on North Oriana Street — and two other locations in Philadelphia — has been recommended for non-renewal. (Photo via Google Maps)

In a year where an unusually high number of charter schools face review, the School District of Philadelphia released renewal recommendations for 21 schools late Monday.

Of those 21, the district’s charter school office recommended a standard five-year renewal for 20 schools.

But officials recommended that the School Reform Commission not renew Laboratory Charter School of Communication and Languages, which serves 637 children in three locations — Overbrook, Wynnfield, and Northern Liberties. The charter school office found strong academic performance at Laboratory Charter, but cited financial and organizational concerns in its report.

A recommendation of non-renewal is typically the first step in closing a charter school. If the SRC follows through on that recommendation and votes not to renew Laboratory Charter, the school can appeal to a state review board.

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The charter school office has yet to release recommendations for five other schools: Eastern University Charter School; General David B. Birney Charter School; Memphis Street Academy Charter School At J.P. Jones; Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter School; and Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School.

The recommendation reports released Monday are just that, recommendations. The fate of each charter school will be decided May 1 at a special meeting of the SRC, which will vote on all 26 schools up for renewal.

The charter school office recommended conditional renewals for 19 of the 20 approved schools. The lone exception was Alliance for Progress Charter School, which earned an unconditional five-year renewal.

The charter school office — which is under the aegis of the School Reform Commission, not the School District of Philadelphia — will also recommend expansions for three charter schools: Alliance for Progress, Southwest Leadership School, and Wissahickon charter schools. If approved, those three expansion applications will add 797 new charter seats.

Five other charter schools applied for expansions, according to school district spokesman Kevin Geary. The charter office recommended that expansion applications from Franklin Towne Charter, Inquiry Charter School, Keystone Academy, and Tacony Academy be rejected. A fifth application, from Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter, is still pending.

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