Philly charter school to expand to second building in Mt. Airy

An official with Khepera Charter School said this week that the independent institution is moving the majority of its student body to a space recently vacated by AMY Northwest Middle School in nearby East Mt. Airy.

Khepera CEO Charles Highsmith said the Afrikan-centered charter school signed a lease two weeks ago for a building on St. Therese of the Child Jesus’ campus at 6611 Ardleigh Street. The lease for the V-shaped property begins July 1.

“We’re moving there because it’s a desirable facility and we need more space for our kids,” he said. “It provides us with outside yard space, parking and 16 classrooms. Our whole school family is going to benefit from this.”

Khepera to operate in two buildings

Khepera Charter, a K-8 school, will start housing its K-5 population at the new site come September. Those grades contain about 300 of the school’s 450 students, said Highsmith.

Students in grades 6-8 will remain at the school’s facility on West Carpenter Lane in West Mount Airy. A nearby annex site used for kindergarten students will close.

In a phone interview on Friday, Highsmith was unable to provide the exact details of the lease agreement with St. Therese, a Catholic parish part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He said the school will be at the location for a “substantial amount of time.”

In an earlier interview, Rev. Monsignor David Benz, the pastor at St. Therese, told NewsWorks that the school had signed a five-year lease.

Benz would not divulge the annual rent figure, but said it was “in the same ballpark” as what the School District of Philadelphia paid to lease space for AMY Northwest middle school.

AMY Northwest, a special admissions 6-8 school, recently finished up its seventh and final year at St. Therese. The district paid about $200,000 a year for the space during that time.

AMY Northwest moves to Roxborough

AMY Northwest will reopen in the fall at William Levering Elementary’s former building in Roxborough.

Levering closed for good at the end of this academic year after the city’s School Reform Commission approved the district’s suggestion to do so as part of its Facilities Master Plan.

Levering’s declining enrollment and lack of students from the school’s catchment area landed it on a list of school closure recommendations aimed at helping offset ongoing and severe budgetary woes.

St. Therese was slated to close in July as part of the Archdiocese’s Pastoral Planning Initiative, but was spared for another year following an appeal. Benz said the issue will be re-visited in September.

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