West Oak Lane Charter School now offers all its education under one roof

After years of going to classes spread across three buildings in a shopping center, the West Oak Lane Charter School is celebrating a homecoming as it completes a $16 million expansion project.

For the first time nearly since its founding in 1998, all of the school’s students are under one roof, in a new 64,000 square foot facility. Students in kindergarten through grade 8 began moving into its 45 classrooms on Oct. 13, and school officials held a ribbon-cutting celebration Wednesday night to welcome families and community supporters to their new home.

The new facility serves 850 students right now, a number likely to grow, and has a full-sized gym, a new library and two computer labs in additions that wrap around three sides of the existing main building at 7115 Stenton Ave., in the West Oak Lane Shopping Center.

“It’s been emotionally exhausting, for sure, but we are just overjoyed,” said Dr. Debbera Peoples-Lee, the school’s CEO. “These are kids who’ve been in trailers here for five years, or in some renovated something we put together.”

In the 10 months since the groundbreaking, she said, students and parents remained focused on learning even as construction went on around them and building configurations underwent quick changes as work progressed.

“These kids are so excited and so deserving, and so are the parents who supported us along the way,” Lee said. Some work remains on the gym floor, and demolition on now-empty structures will make way for more parking. But major work is complete.

Parents, students and officials packed the ribbon-cutting, with Councilwoman Marian Tasco, councilmember-elect Cindy Bass, and representatives of the Mayor and state Rep. Dwight Evans in attendance. The school is owned and operated by a subsidiary of Evans’ Ogontz Area Revitalization Corp., or OARC.

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Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com.

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