Proposed vocational school in Germantown makes final pitch to SRC

 Charter applicant Philadelphia Career & Technical Academy Charter School puts a focus on the lives of two hypothetical students at a presentation on Dec. 8. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Charter applicant Philadelphia Career & Technical Academy Charter School puts a focus on the lives of two hypothetical students at a presentation on Dec. 8. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Now it’s in the hands of the School Reform Commission.

On Wednesday, the team behind the proposed Philadelphia Career and Technical Academy bunched around a table inside a near-empty auditorium for the second and final public hearing on the group’s charter school application. It’s one of 40 such applications submitted to the Philadelphia School District.

The group will now have to wait until February to learn if its dream of opening an independent high school in Germantown becomes a reality.

“It went as well as we thought it could,” said Frank Robinson, president of Redemptive Enterprises, a project management company that would operate the school if its application were approved.

“We’re confident. We’re pressing on. We’re continuing on as if we’re going to get it.”

Hearing the plans

During the roughly hour-long hearing, core members fielded “nitty-gritty” questions about their application and got a few minutes to make one last pitch.

Big picture, the school would offer a STEM-based curriculum and vocational training to 600 students from the area — Germantown, Nicetown and Hunting Park — and throughout the city.

In addition to classes in core subjects, students would choose a specialty in which to receive certification. Options would include certified nursing, automotive technology, computer networking, culinary arts and business.

The school would also have a college preparatory bent.

“The overall thought is that they are models that can be blended,” said Robinson.

If approved, the school would open in September 2016.

The vocational focus

On Wednesday, questions largely focused on the vocational part of the school’s curriculum. Specifically, who would be teaching those courses, where, and at what point during their high school career.

Robinson said all vocational courses would be taught on site by teachers certified in each subject.

Where exactly that site will be or what it will look like, however, is still a bit up in the air it seems.

Team members have had discussions with Philly Office Retail, owned by Mt. Airy developer Ken Weinstein.

Weinstein owns a five-building campus at 4811 Germantown Ave. in Germantown, which once housed Germantown Settlement Charter School.

“It might be using existing buildings and land,” said Robinson. 

The group is also looking at a property on Church Lane, about a mile away.

No architectural drawings exist for either proposed site.

When it comes to the vocational courses, students wouldn’t pick a certification track until the second half of sophomore year. Time would then be evenly split between core subjects and vocational training.

Freshman year would be completely devoted to traditional academics.

One of two applicants

The Philadelphia Career and Technical Academy is one of two applicants from Germantown.

The Germantown Community Charter School Coalition formed shortly after budget cuts closed Germantown High School in June 2013.

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

The coalition’s second hearing is scheduled for Jan. 26 at 1 p.m.

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