York City school board seeks more details about Lincoln Charter expansion

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

The York City School District officials peppered Lincoln Charter School staff with questions about the charter's proposed expansion Tuesday night, but board members have not yet reached a decision.

The district's school board concluded the second of two public hearing sessions ahead of a vote expected in February about whether Lincoln Charter School should be permitted to expand its offerings to middle school students. 

District officials used the second public hearing to clarify details and request more specific information in the charter's expansion plan. Lincoln President and CEO Leonard Hart, along with several other charter officials, addressed the majority of the requests and urged the district to approve the plan. 

"Whichever way you go, we will make you proud," Hart said. 

Board members sought clarity on the charter's plan for curriculum, special education, accommodation for students with disabilities, staff salaries and other details not specified in the application.

The board held its first virtual public hearing on the application Dec. 14. At that hearing, 14 parents, students and charter employees testified in support of the proposal, which would see Lincoln Charter School expand its program to serve sixth grade through eighth grade.

Nobody testified against the expansion. 

The district's attorney, Allison Petersen, has said the board must vote on the proposal by Feb. 27. 

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

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. 

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.

Lincoln Charter School has a history of financial issues. In 2018, the school was in jeopardy because of multiple late audits. Another charter school under the York City School District, Helen Thackston Charter School, shut down over similar issues. 

More:York City to give Lincoln Charter second chance on untimely audits