Shock, upset and unfair were the words used most by New Hope Academy students discussing the state's decision Tuesday to close their charter school in January.

"Why does it have to close in the middle of the school year," said Shennelle Smaw, 17-year-old senior. "It's not fair to us. For the seniors, we won't finish our classes together, we won't have prom together, we won't get to graduate together."

The state charter school board voted unanimously to deny New Hope's appeal of the York City School District's decision not to renew New Hope's Charter.

The board then ordered New Hope, a York City charter school since 2007, to close by Sunday, Jan. 15.

Students enter New Hope Academy Charter School in York City on Tuesday. A state board has ordered the school to close.
Students enter New Hope Academy Charter School in York City on Tuesday. A state board has ordered the school to close. (Bil Bowden photo)

Shennelle's friend and fellow senior Yashira Rosado, 17, said that while she does not like the closure decision, she doesn't understand why the state wouldn't let New Hope complete the school year.

Parents and students would still have time to figure out what to do, while the seniors could complete their last year in high school without having to change schools in the middle of the year, Yashira said.

"I think it's crazy what (the state) is doing," she said. "It's ruining our senior year. This is my school. I've been coming here since seventh grade, and now its going to close. This is sad."

Eilianie Rosa, a 16-year-old junior, said she just moved to York and New Hope Academy is the only school she knows.

"When I heard about all of this, it really shocked me," she said. "I want to be here. Now they're telling us we can't be here. It's hurting a lot of our academic goals."

None of the students said they want to go to William Penn Senior High School in the York City School District.

"New Hope has a really good performance arts program," Shennelle said.

"And we have 'Talent Fridays,' Yashira added. "We showed our acting skills, show our talents."

Shennelle, Yashira and Eilianie all said they would miss their teachers, whom Shennelle described as "nice and cool."

"They are really into what they do," Yashira said.

Anyelika Ortiz, a New Hope sixth-grader, said she doesn't want to return to Ferguson Elementary School in the city district. She has been at the charter school since fifth grade.

"There wasn't much drama here," she said. "I like the teachers. This is the closest school to my house, and it's the best place for me to have an education. I'm kind of feeling upset about leaving."

All the students said they will talk with their parents about their next educational move.

Parent Daphne Andino of York City said she was shocked to hear about the state's closing decision. She had just enrolled her daughter, Darisha Andino in the school two months ago. Darisha is in the eighth grade, Andino said.

Andino said her sister-in-law is a staff member and recommended the school as the best educational facility for Darisha.

"I don't know what to do now," Andino said. "We really have to think about this. I just don't know."

Lauren Williams said her 17-year-old son, a senior at New Hope, cried when he learned of his school's pending closure.

Williams said she enrolled her son at New Hope as a sixth-grader after disappointing years as a York City School District student. Teachers at New Hope took an interest in Elijah Williams, and he began to excel, she said.

Now, as a senior, he's stressed enough trying to improve his GPA so he can get into a good college, Lauren Williams said.

"And now they're going to switch him midway through his senior year?" she said.

If New Hope closes, Heather Alderson said, she'll likely enroll her 10-year-old daughter in a cyber school.

After several years of attending McKinley Elementary, Hollie Emich is attending fifth grade at New Hope. Socially and academically, Hollie is doing better, Alderson said.

Alderson said she doesn't want to send Hollie back to the overcrowded classrooms and bullying culture she experienced in the school district.

"She was not comfortable being there," Alderson said. "And now she's in a school where is comfortable."

Staff writer Erin James contributed to this report. Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at emcmillan@yorkdispatch.com.