The future of a York City charter school will be the subject of a courtroom hearing next month in Harrisburg.
Oral arguments are scheduled for Monday, March 10 in New Hope Academy's quest to survive beyond June.
The case, which pits the academy against the York City School District and a state-level appeals board, has been languishing in the court system since November.
District officials denied New Hope's application for a charter renewal in 2012. In October of that year, the charter school filed an appeal of the district's decision and was allowed to continue operating throughout the process.
Last year, the state's charter school appeals board agreed with the district and ordered New Hope to close by Jan. 15 of this year. The appeals board later revised its decision to allow New Hope to remain open until the end of the academic year.
On Nov. 26, New Hope's attorneys asked the Commonwealth Court to order the appeals board to renew New Hope's charter for five years.
If the court declines to do that, the attorneys are asking the court to order the appeals board to vacate its order and re-open the case with new hearings.
All of the legal wrangling has Don Trost, high-school principal at New Hope, wondering why the district approved a five-year charter renewal for another charter school Wednesday.
With no discussion or fanfare, the district's school board voted to renew Helen Thackston's charter. Asked Wednesday what was different between Helen Thackston and New Hope, district Superintendent Eric Holmes declined to comment.
District and Helen Thackston officials said they'd been meeting for months to negotiate the terms of a new charter.
Trost said he is "super happy" for students at Helen Thackston. But, he said, "You have to question the process."
"It doesn't seem like it's consistent across the board for all charters," Trost said.
Trost said New Hope officials were never "called into a meeting to speak about how to get our charter renewed by the school district."
"They never even talked to us about any concerns that they had at any point," he said. "Until we received the non-renewal notice, we had no reason to believe there was any reason to negotiate."
Trost said he suspects the district's decision to deny New Hope's renewal was closely tied to its financial recovery process, which depends significantly on the return of charter-school students.
While they wait for a court ruling, New Hope officials are focused on educating students, Trost said. Closing New Hope would amount to students' "lives turned totally upside down," he said.
"If those kids go back to the schools that they chose to leave, we know that their attendance rates are going to drop. They're not going to grow academically," he said. "We know that some aren't going to go to college, and some kids may drop out."
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.