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Lincoln Charter School moves forward on expansion plans for middle school program

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Lincoln Charter School, 559 W. King St., York City  Amanda J. Cain photo

Lincoln Charter School is one step closer to expanding its program to serve sixth grade through eighth grade students. 

The York City school board held a virtual public hearing Monday night on the expansion, but it did not vote on the proposal. Attorney Allison Petersen said the board plans to hold a second public hearing on the subject. That date has not been set, but the board must make a decision on the proposal by Feb. 27, she said. 

York City School District owns the Lincoln Charter building, located at 559 W. King St. The expansion includes the addition of a new building at 459 W. King St. with the capacity for 750 students, according to Lincoln President and CEO Leonard Hart.

The proposal would transition Lincoln Charter's program to offer sixth grade through eighth grade over three years. If approved, the program would begin with up to 250 sixth graders in the 2021-22 academic year. The process would finish in 2023-24, allowing up to 750 sixth grade through eighth grade students, according to a presentation on the plan. 

Earlier this year, York City school board members criticized the proposed expansion. 

"We foot their facility and their bills. They pay us nothing. Let alone they're taking away our children from our school district, which is also taking away money out of our school district. That's what we need to be thinking about," York City board member Arleta Riviera said at a July meeting. 

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York City School District was hit hard financially this year, with a 2020-21 budget that cut more than 44 positions — 32 of them teachers — and eliminated or reduced funding for several programs.

York City's district is also facing a $2.5 million increase in statewide charter tuition next year, which could be exacerbated by even more children attending Lincoln. The district also pays for Lincoln Charter's utilities and maintenance, which Lincoln Charter pays back quarterly to the district.

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Anne Clark, Lincoln's director of community outreach, previously said the reason behind the expansion is not to take away from other districts but to be able to offer its current students the opportunity to remain at Lincoln after fifth grade. Charter officials have argued the expansion is key to improving access to education throughout York City.

"It's not about us," Hart said. "It's about them."

Hart said Lincoln Charter School officials are looking into other financial streams to support the school, such as grants and opportunity zone funding.