Hope is dwindling for a York City charter school that's nearly reached the end of an appeals process that could keep it open beyond June 10.
Commonwealth Court issued a ruling Tuesday that affirms earlier decisions from the York City School District and a state-level appeals board not to renew New Hope Academy's charter.
The charter school can appeal the court's decision to the state Supreme Court, state Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller said.
But the court could choose not to take the case, Eller said.
"If they don't want to hear it, then case closed," he said. "This is pretty much the end of their appeal process."
The principal at New Hope Academy's high school said he is "hopeful we can still save our school."
"Whether it's taking it to the Supreme Court or not, I really can't tell you right now," Don Trost said Tuesday afternoon. "We haven't taken anything off the table. Everything is still in play."
New Hope officials scheduled a two-hour delay for students Wednesday and planned to use that time to talk about helping students handle the news, said Kara Luzik, a New Hope spokeswoman.
"The students today were really, really upset. There were a lot of tears," Luzik said Tuesday. "They're just focusing a lot on helping the students when they come into school tomorrow. They don't want their education to suffer over this news."
The case: The city school district denied New Hope's application for a charter renewal in 2012. New Hope appealed that decision to the state-level appeals board, which upheld the district's decision in a 52-page document that cited a laundry list of academic failures, alleged charter violations and unethical financial practices at New Hope.
In their opinion issued Tuesday, Commonwealth Court judges disagreed with New Hope's argument that charter school law does not establish "requirements for student performance."
During the school's five years in operation, New Hope students consistently scored below district students on standardized tests.
The court concluded "that renewal of New Hope's charter was properly denied for failure to meet state academic performance standards."
The court also agreed with the district's and board's earlier conclusions that New Hope violated the Ethics Act and Nonprofit Law in business dealings with its founder, Isiah Anderson.
Anderson owns three companies with financial ties to New Hope. The school paid those companies more than $6 million between 2008 and 2011, according to the court.
Timing: News of the court's decision reached New Hope students and staff late in the morning Tuesday, in the middle of PSSA testing for fifth- and sixth-graders, Trost said.
Counselors are available to help students who are upset and confused, Trost said.
"Kids deal with a lot of disappointment, but this is something that, even with a little bit of foreshadowing, is still very disappointing for them," Trost said. "Right now we're just sort of evaluating our options. Really, to be able to absorb that kind of disappointment during the middle of a school day, that's really sort of taking all of our energies right now."
New Hope employs about 100 people, and about 750 students attend the school.
District: Margie Orr, president of the York City School District's school board, said she believes the "judges saw what was right and fair for our children."
"Our district is going to move forward," she said.
District administrators have been working all year to prepare for the possible return of New Hope students, Orr said. That includes the plan to reopen Hannah Penn Middle School next year as a K-8 building, she said.
"The parents need to come on board with us and let us get this done," Orr said. "We don't need any more bickering and back-and-forth and court dates and all this stuff. That just takes away from what we're trying to do. We need to stay focused."
While school officials are approaching the end of the road on appeals, some New Hope parents are still fighting the battle through a lawsuit filed last month. In the pending federal suit, nearly 60 parents and students argue their constitutional rights were violated by the school district.
Trost said he expects the decision about whether to appeal the Commonwealth Court's ruling will be made sooner rather than later.
"We don't have very long to decide," Trost said. "Planning for next school year should have already started."
- Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.