New Hope Academy Charter School plans to appeal an order from the state’s Charter School Appeal Board to close by Jan. 15.
New Hope Academy Charter School plans to appeal an order from the state's Charter School Appeal Board to close by Jan. 15. (BIL BOWDEN bbowden@yorkdispatch.com)

The more Calvin Weary chanted, the more people stood and screamed in agreement.

"New Hope is our school," yelled Weary, the charter school's performance arts director.

Weary and more than 400 parents and students attended a meeting Thursday in New Hope Academy Charter School's gymnasium to learn how to help the school appeal the Oct. 15 decision by the state's Charter School Appeal Board to order New Hope to close by Jan. 15.

Attendees were given petition forms to collect signatures of people who support New Hope and want it kept open through the end of the school year and while the school appeals the state's decision.

Meeting-goers were given letters they can sign and mail to state legislators to get support for the she school.

After the meeting, Isiah Anderson, the school's founder, said the school will file its stay-open petition and start its appeal process after it receives the state's written decision on the closure.

New Hope officials had said at a press conference Wednesday they hope to appeal to Gov. Tom Corbett asking him to intervene by halting the Jan. 15 closing of the school.

However, at Thursday's event, New Hope officials released a statement that they are "deeply disappointed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education's decision not to approve our appeal.

Tim Eller, spokesman for the department, said the governor's office and the education department do not have authority over the matter: Any decisions made on behalf of New Hope will be handled through the Charter School Appeal Board and the Court of Common Pleas.

New Hope can stay open past the Jan. 15 closure date if the school requests and is granted a stay by either organization, Eller said.

New Hope officials have 30 days to file a petition after the written decision to close the school is issued. The appeal board will have to certify the record with the court within 40 days after the petition for review is filed, according to Eller.

He said the court will set a briefing schedule - usually another 60 days after being certified-and set the case for argument after all briefs are filed.

There is no timeline for a decision after that, Eller said.

After Thursday's meeting, Nancy Long of York City said two of her grandchildren attend New Hope and are excelling academically and she will fight for their education at the charter school.

Long said she already signed the petition and has sent letters to the office of state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, and to state department of education officials.

"I will send more letters out to (legislators)," she said. "(New Hope) is a young school. Give it a chance. If some things need to be fixed, let's work together to get it done. Rome wasn't built in a day."

Ninth-grade student Evander Harris and his mother, Kathy Harris, both of York City, said they signed the petition and are glad New Hope is fighting for the public's right to have a choice in education for children.

Evander, 14, said he likes how his school teaches him "how to be something in life."

New Hope is successful in teaching academics and showing students how to make the right decisions for their lives, Kathy Harris said.

"They teach them to be very responsible and respectful," she added. "They echo what I'm teaching (Evander)."

City resident Yaritza Solivon, said she signed the petition and will send letters to state legislators because she wants her 10-grade son to stay at New Hope.

"I don't want my son in the York City School District," she said. "I worked too hard to keep my son focused on school. I don't want him lost in that district."

Solivon also said she doesn't like the district's plan to reopen Hannah Penn Middle School in January to accommodate New Hope students in grades 5-8 and to have the older students attend William Penn Senior High School.

Anderson said he doesn't believe the district is ready to serve New Hope's 815 students, including 200 special-education students who have their own individualized education plans or IEPs.

New Hope also has 75 seniors applying for college, he said.

"If (the state) closes us and these seniors have to change schools in the middle of the year, how are they going to explain that on their applications," Anderson said. "They shouldn't have to do that."

For information about New Hope Academy Charter School's petition and appeals plan, visit its website at www.newhopeacademycharterschool.com.

Dispatch staff writer Nikelle Snader contributed to this report. Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at emcmillan@yorkdispatch.com.