York City schools prepare for influx of Thackston students

As York City School District prepares to welcome hundreds of new students transferring from the recently closed Helen Thackston Charter School, the focus is on keeping class sizes down.

The district could have potentially had about 500 incoming students from the charter, which closed at the end of the 2017-18 school year following a legal battle over its incomplete audit reports.

District spokeswoman Erin James estimated about 260 new students are expected for the high school and 75 for the eight K-8 schools.

But that number is subject to change, said school board Vice President Michael Miller, based on factors such as families moving in and out of the city.

"We don't want to jump the gun and start moving people around or coming to the board and asking for additional positions until we know what we actually have," Superintendent Eric Holmes said at the board's planning meeting Monday, Aug. 6.

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More:York City district prepares to take about 500 Thackston students a year early

The board approved 27 newly hired teachers and a social worker for the high school as well as other new staff hires at a special meeting before the planning meeting. 

Board President Margie Orr said a certain amount of turnover is normal but that since the majority of Thackston students will be going to William Penn Senior High School, the district did have to hire more teachers and staff there.

A total of eight new teachers will be starting at the high school this fall. 

There's a lot of room in the high school, Miller said. The middle school students, however, could put strain on class sizes.

Within the first 10 days of the school year, the district is able to drop students from the roster who don't show up, but only a few classrooms are a concern, Holmes said.

"We're not looking at anything that's too large," he said.

Goode and Hannah Penn K-8 schools have a couple of classrooms that have more than 30 students. All of the other K-8 schools are averaging 10-12 new students, but those two got about 20 each, Holmes said.

If necessary, the district will first look to collapse classes within those schools and then in other buildings in the district, he said. But if the students cannot be accommodated within the district, the decision will come back to the board to hire more teachers.

Holmes said a couple of positions are on reserve to account for the Thackston middle school students, but he said, "I don't want to use them unless I absolutely have to."

York City School District board members, from left, Vice President Michael Miller, President Margie Orr and Jeffrey Gettle are shown during a special meeting regarding the future of Helen Thackston Charter School at the Administration Building in York City, Feb. 13, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Funding: One benefit of the added students is funding that formerly went to the charter will go back to the district.

Orr said the district will not receive any more funding from the state than it would have if the charter had stayed open, but since the district no longer has to fund Thackston, that money will stay with the district.

Before the charter's closure, the district had to cut its after-school program because there was not enough room in the budget, and now it's "back on track," Orr said.

The program will resume in the upcoming school year, and the district will be able to bring back other classes, such as French, as well.

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Other new offerings in the district this year are the public safety and emergency services program providing training and certifications in a number of disciplines, and the addition of ninth grade to the district's STEAM Academy — which already has a wait list of 200 for the sixth-grade class, according to assistant superintendent Andrea Berry.

The first day of school for grades 1-12 is Monday, Aug. 20.