Thackston Charter plans 41,000-square-foot expansion

Andrew Shaw
The York Dispatch

(Editor's note: This story was originally published Sept. 16. 2012)

A "significant expansion" of Helen Thackston Charter School will kick off at the end of September.

The charter middle school for grades 5-9 is getting an extra 41,000 square feet added to its existing building on East Philadelphia Street, according to Charter School Property Solutions, which is financing the project.

A groundbreaking ceremony will occur Sept. 27, with details to come.

Project manager Paul Gascoigne said there will be 31 classrooms in the new three-story structure that will include science labs, a commercial-grade kitchen, locker rooms and a gymnasium, all features Helen Thackston hasn't had on site.

The charter school is operating this year at capacity with 585 students in its 28,000-square-foot building built in 1902. The $11 million renovation of that space and the construction of new space will allow for up to 775 total students, Gascoigne said.

What grades those students will be in is still up for debate. In February, the York City School District rejected the charter school's application to add grades 10-12. Helen Thackston administrators are waiting for their appeal to be heard by the state Charter Appeal Board.

Either way, construction will happen, Gascoigne said.

"There's plenty of enrollment. They will still need the entire building," he said. He pointed out Thackston, which opened in 2009, has been teaching some classes offsite at the YMCA and at a church to accommodate its enrollment.

Funding: The project will be done by next summer, he said. It'll include razing two houses on East Philadelphia Street. And a parking lot will be built at 200 N. State St., about a block away, to provide adequate parking for the school.

Charter School Property Solutions is a national real estate developer for charter schools, and will fund the project up front through private debt, Gascoigne said.

Thackston will later buy the building back from Charter School Property Solutions, allowing it the ability to build now and pay later. Thackston will pay rent in the meantime, he said. York-based Stewart and Tate Construction will serve as general contractor.