Nine new charter schools apply to open in Philly

Members of the School Reform Commission are expected to vote on the nine charter school applications in February. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Members of the School Reform Commission are expected to vote on the nine charter school applications in February. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

The School District of Philadelphia received applications for nine new charter schools that would, if approved, open up more than 7,000 new charter seats.

The nine applications represent a spike from last year, when just four schools asked for a charter — and only one was approved. Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission has final say over application approval, but this is likely the commission’s last year before it’s replaced by a local school board.

This year’s batch of applications features some familiar names, including Mastery, the city’s largest charter network.

Mastery is applying to open Mastery Charter Elementary School in the North Philadelphia neighborhood of Yorktown. If approved, the school would eventually serve 756 students in grades K-8.

A significant chunk of Mastery’s expansion has been through the school district’s renaissance initiative, whereby Philadelphia turns over traditional public schools to charter operators. Of Mastery’s 14 schools, 13 already existed as district or charter schools before Mastery began running them.

The district, however, hasn’t awarded a new renaissance charter school since the 2015-16 school year and will not convert any district schools into charters this year. For well over a year now, the district has said it’s reviewing the program and will not award any new schools until that review is complete.

Mastery has applied to open new charter schools before. Its flagship school, Mastery Lenfest, opened as a new charter in 2001.

“Our mission at Mastery is that ‘all students learn the academic and personal skills they need to be truly prepared for postsecondary success and able to pursue their dreams,’” said Mastery CEO Scott Gordon in a statement. “To fulfill that mission, we are seeking to provide a high-quality, well-rounded elementary school option for families in North Philadelphia.”

Another prominent renaissance operator, ASPIRA, wants to expand through the traditional charter application process. ASPIRA wants to open two new schools: Antonia Pantoja Preparatory Charter School (K-8) and Eugenio Maria de Hostos Preparatory Charter School (K-8).

ASPIRA already runs two schools with nearly identical names, and the new charters would use the same academic models already practiced at their namesake schools, according to the applications.

In addition to its traditional charter schools, ASPIRA operates two renaissance schools — ASPIRA Charter School at Olney and ASPIRA Charter School at Stetson.

In the spring of 2016, Philadelphia’s Charter Schools Office recommended that charters for  Olney and Stetson not be renewed after uncovering a laundry list of financial and organizational shortcomings. However, a final SRC vote on the schools deadlocked, and both remain open indefinitely.

The MaST network, which already operates two schools, applied to open a third site on Crown Way in the Far Northeast. The proposed MaST school would educate 2,600 students at full scale, making it more than twice as big as the next largest proposal in this year’s batch.

You can find a complete list of charter applications here. The table below shows all new proposed schools and the number of students they would serve at capacity.

 

Proposed School Name Neighborhood Grades Students (at capacity)
Antonia Pantoja Preparatory Charter School North Philadelphia K-8 925
APM Community Charter School Feltonville K-8 624
Eugenio Maria de Hostos Preparatory Charter School North Philadelphia K-8 850
Franklin Towne Charter Middle School Bridesburg 6-8 450
MaST Community Charter School III Northeast Philadelphia
K-12 2,600
Mastery Charter Elementary School North Philadelphia K-8 756
Pennsylvania Institute Academy Charter School Philadelphia 9-12 320
Philadelphia Hebrew Public Charter School East Falls K-8 702
Qor Charter School Frankford K-4 312

 

The new charter applications will be reviewed by the Charter Schools Office. The SRC is expected to decide on the nine applications in February.

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