GHS grassroots group submits charter-school application

     Representatives with the School District of Philadelphia led an open-house tour of the GHS property in May. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

    Representatives with the School District of Philadelphia led an open-house tour of the GHS property in May. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

    After a “tremendous” amount of work, a Philadelphia grassroots group is now one step closer to breathing new life into the former home of Germantown High School.

    The Germantown Community Charter School Coalition was one of 40 groups that submitted a charter school application to the School District of Philadelphia by the Nov. 15 deadline.

    “We’re just really pleased,” said Julie Stapleton-Carroll, who has been leading the charge since budget cuts closed GHS in June 2013.

    Their hopes

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    The coalition’s 96-page application comes after more than a year of community meetings, planning sessions and email exchanges.

    Big picture, the group hopes to open an independent charter school serving 1,050 neighborhood students in grades six through 12.

    “The system is always a manage up system so that principals feel like they’re working for 440 [N. Broad St.] as opposed to the kids and the community,” said Stapleton-Carroll, who helped found Wissahickon Charter School and would serve as Germantown Community Charter School CEO. “We wanted to flip that model.”

    Academic details

    According to the application, students would be taught traditional subjects, but also learn skills aimed at job-readiness. All classes would be held in “small learning environments.”

    “We envision students working with the historic houses on building projects, marketing efforts, curating, historic preservation and heritage study,” reads part of the document.

    Down the road, the coalition hopes to co-locate with a boutique hotel and a restaurant. Both would be folded into the school’s curriculum in some way.

    If approved, the school could open as soon as Sept. 2015.

    Process moving forward

    The coalition’s application must first be approved by the School Reform Commission following a public hearing.

    Under state law, the SRC must hold a public hearing within 45 days of an application being submitted.

    A decision must be reached within 75 days of the hearing.

    It’s unclear how many charter schools will be approved. That’s ultimately up to the SRC to decide.

    They’re not alone in NW Philly

    The coalition is competing against well-known charter school operators such as Mastery and Aspira, but also a couple of local entries.

    WAY Haberdashery, a Germantown-based nonprofit, wants to open the Philadelphia Career and Technical Academy, a high school for 600 students.

    The Urban STEM Academy Consortium hopes to open the Urban STEM Academy for 1,000 5-12th grade students.

    The coalition is also, in some ways, competing for the attention of The Concordia Group.

    In late September, the Maryland-based development company got the SRC’s green light to start negotiating the sale of five shuttered schools, including GHS.

    Concordia bid $6.8 million for a portfolio that also includes Robert Fulton Elementary in Germantown, Charles Carroll High School in Port Richmond and Walter Smith and Abigail Vare Elementaries in South Philadelphia.

    The company has yet to start its mandatory due diligence, but did send a letter of support for Stapleton-Carroll to include in the application.

    The school also has political support from City Councilwoman Cindy Bass and state Reps. Stephen Kinsey and Rosita Youngblood.

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