Germantown residents discuss plan to turn GHS property into a community charter school

 (Daniel Pasquarello/for NewsWorks)

(Daniel Pasquarello/for NewsWorks)

More than 20 Germantown residents gathered at the Daniel E. Rumph II Recreation Center on Saturday to learn more about the proposal to turn the now-empty Germantown High School site into a community charter school.

Julie Stapleton-Carroll, who would serve as Germantown Community Charter School principal should the idea gain Charter School Office approval, led the meeting.

Organizers plan to hold several more meetings to bolster neighborhood support as the Nov. 15 application deadline approaches.

“There has already been a huge groundswell of support for the project in the neighborhood,” said Stapleton-Carroll. “We now have over 100 subscriptions to our email service and almost 1,000 signatures on a petition expressing support for the school’s application.

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“The application process has done a lot not only to bring individuals together to help create the school, but also to bring the community together to affect change.”

How this came to be

When the cigarette tax was approved as school-funding source, it included a provision that opened a window for new charter-school applications.

Applications filed by Nov. 15 would then face a 45-day waiting period during which public hearings could be held.

The SRC, which is expected to receive more than 40 applications, must decide which to approve within 75 days of the waiting-period’s onset.

Local at heart

If approved, Germantown Community Charter School would prioritize admission applications from potential students living in the 19144, 19138, and 19119 ZIP codes.

In the school’s first year, 600 students would be accepted, with students split evenly across grades six through nine. Over time, enrollment would double as it expanded to grades six through 12.

“The mission of the school is to use the assets existing in the community to deliver its curriculum,” said Carroll of a learning center that would offer students a systematic introduction to the skilled trades.

Beyond traditional “shop” electives,  school organizers would partner with area colleges and universities offering majors in tourism and hospitality management. That would enable them to use many of Germantown’s historic sites as a learning laboratory of sorts.

Three of the projected eight members of the school’s Board of Directors — Paul Patel (Pennsville Hospitality Group), Evens Charles (Frontier Development and Hospitality Group) and Greg DeShields (Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management) — come from the hospitality and tourism industries.

Vera Primus, Joe Budd and three parents would round out the board.

What’s next?

In the coming weeks, school organizers hope enter into a memorandum of understanding with The Concordia Group, a development firm based in Maryland.

In September, the SRC voted to allow Concordia and the district to begin the negotiation process for the sale of five shuttered school buildings including GHS and nearby Robert Fulton Elementary, which were shuttered in June 2013.

That news came as a surprise to many in Germantown, as a grassroots group in Northwest Philadelphia had been meeting to discuss the idea of transforming the GHS site into an independent charter school serving neighborhood students.

Should Concordia decide to sell the GHS campus property to another party, it is hoped that the desire to keep a school on the property doesn’t disappear.

If the SRC denies the application, organizers plan to appeal the decision to the state.

In the event that the application is approved, organizers would have six months to open the school, although a request for a planning year may be included in the application.

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