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Thackston Charter can add high school grades

Eyana Adah McMillan
The York Dispatch

(Editor's note: This story was originally published March 20, 2013)

The York City School Board has approved a settlement agreement that opens the door for Helen Thackston Charter School to add high school grades.

The board unanimously voted its approval Wednesday.

"The state was going to go ahead and approve it anyway," said board president Margie Orr. "We approved the agreement to keep things from going back and forth. Now it's done and over. We have other things to concentrate on now."

Wednesday's vote reverses the board's Feb. 27, 2012, vote to deny Thackston's application to add a 10th- 12th-grade high school to complement Thackston Middle School (grades 5-9) and Lincoln Elementary School.

At the time, the board said Thackston's application was insufficient. Thackston appealed the decision to the state Charter Appeal Board, presenting its argument in December.

The appeal board heard both sides discuss whether Thackston could supply additional documentation about its curriculum and program.

The settlement agreement authorizes the charter to include instruction for the 2013-2014 school year for grades 5 through 11, but enrollment will not exceed 670 students.

If the amended charter is renewed beyond June 30, 2014, the charter can include grade 12 beginning with the 2014-2015 school year. Enrollment will not exceed 755 students, according to the settlement agreement document.

The settlement agreement also means both sides can "avoid the time, expense and uncertainty of further litigation" and resolve the matter without trial, hearing or adjudication.

Thackston initially filed a charter amendment request on Nov. 30, 2010, to add high school grades. The district directed the charter to file a new charter school application, which was done Nov. 1, 2011.

However, that application was denied by the district in February 2012 and the charter filed an appeal to the state Charter School Appeal Board. The appeal board has not issued a decision, according to the settlement agreement document.

Thackston — run by for-profit Edison Learning — is near completion of its year-long $11 million building project that will provide extra space and upgrades of all sorts. The project ends this summer.

The charter middle school for grades 5-9 is getting an extra 41,000 square feet to its existing building at 625 E. Philadelphia St.

Thackston is operating this year at capacity with 500 students in its 28,000-square-foot building built in 1902. The new capacity will be about 775 students.

In other business: The school board approved William Penn Senior High School's graduation date for this school year. The graduation ceremony is at 7 p.m. Friday, June 7, at Smalls Athletic Field, at North George Street and Hamilton Avenue in the city.