A panel of judges has been handed the task of deciding the fate of New Hope Academy Charter School.
Monday afternoon, attorneys for New Hope and the York City School District will present their final arguments at a courtroom hearing in Harrisburg.
The stakes are high.
The district, which denied New Hope's application for a charter renewal in 2012, is backed by an appeals board that has ordered the school closed at the end of this academic year. The board released a 52-page document in October citing a laundry list of alleged charter violations and unethical financial practices at New Hope.
The charter school, supported by dozens of parents anxious about the prospect of sending their children back to district schools, wants to keep its doors open beyond June.
An attorney representing New Hope in its appeal of the state's closure order said he expects the court will "act quickly" to make a decision after Monday's hearing.
Earlier this year, the court denied New Hope's request to stay the school's ordered closure indefinitely, said Bob O'Donnell, a lawyer for New Hope.
But, O'Donnell said, the court scheduled oral arguments expeditiously.
"All that tells me that they're going to make a decision pretty quickly," he said.
Options: However, if the panel of judges does not issue an opinion before the end of the academic year, New Hope is likely to re-file its motion for a stay, O'Donnell said.
If the court rules against New Hope, the school could appeal to the state Supreme Court.
"That's an extraordinary remedy," O'Donnell said.
About 100 New Hope supporters are expected to attend Monday's hearing, said Kiersten Sutton, New Hope's director of community partnerships.
"Our parents have pretty much voiced that they want to be part of the process," Sutton said.
Lawsuit dismissed: Some of those parents were dealt a blow last month when a judge dismissed their federal lawsuit alleging a conspiracy among district officials to deny a renewal of New Hope's charter in 2012 despite years of approving the school's expansion plans.
The lawsuit, filed in November, sought to convince a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania that the school district's actions violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 14th Amendment and the Pennsylvania Constitution.
The plaintiffs — seven parents and one 18-year-old student — asked for monetary compensation and punitive damages in excess of $100,000.
In his order dated Feb. 27, Judge John E. Jones III gave the plaintiffs 30 days to amend their complaint and re-file. Of six allegations in the original complaint, Jones dismissed three "without prejudice," which means the plaintiffs can re-file those arguments.
Meanwhile, with the fate of the school hanging in the balance, New Hope staff members are focused on education, Sutton said.
For example, they've been helping nearly 70 seniors prepare for graduation. Many of those students are heading to college, Sutton said.
"The community should know that we're not skipping a beat," she said. "We are putting our students first."
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.