New life for shuttered Helen Thackston Charter School building?

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
A car passes the vacant Helen Thackston Charter School building on East Philadelphia Street in York City Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. A plan underway to reopen the shuttered building. Bill Kalina photo

A plan is in the works to reopen the shuttered Helen Thackston Charter School building on East Philadelphia Street in York City.

York Mayor Michael Helfrich said a group is currently cleaning up the building at 625 E. Philadelphia St. to eventually use it as a community center.

A Facebook post by Cynthia Dotson said the building will be used for hosting events, including "youth activities and educational programs."

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Helen Thackston Charter School closed in 2018 after an unsuccessful appeal of the city school board's decision a year earlier to revoke its charter. The building has been vacant since then.

Thackston started as a middle school in 2009, and high school grades were added in 2013. In 2012, the charter school operators began an $11 million project to add 41,000 square feet to the original 28,000-square-foot building, which was constructed in 1902. 

The Helen Thackston Charter School building on East Philadelphia Street in York City is vacant Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. A plan underway to reopen the shuttered building. Bill Kalina photo

The York City School District approved a five-year renewal of Thackston's charter in 2014, just months ahead of a scathing audit from the state Auditor General's Office, which cited issues including an inadequate number of certified staff members and missing documentation.

The York City school board voted to initiate revocation hearings in June 2017 — citing the overdue audits among their issues.

The building has been vacant ever since. According to county real estate records, the owner is CSP York LLC, which is registered in Nevada but has an address listed in Santa Ana, California.

Dotson said she's acting as a liaison between the owners and the community.

Helfrich said city officials are looking forward to the building reopening but also said there was "nothing imminent" in the works. He did not mention any formal steps taken by Dotson or anyone else to solidify the plans. 

"Everything is in the idea phase right now," he said. 

More:York City mayor plans to use neighborhood schools for community programs

Dotson applied three times between 2012 and 2014 for a charter to open a school in the York City School. Each time the school denied her application. Her Championship Academy of Distinction would have emphasized health and fitness in its curriculum. 

Prior to that, Dotson spent 10 years as principal of the Crispus Attucks YouthBuild Charter School. 

She thanked Helfrich on Facebook last week for his help in the process. 

"Special thanks to Mayor Michael Helfrich for ensuring our I's are dotted and our T's are crossed to ensure a smooth opening and long-term success!" she said in the post. 

Dotson could not be reached for comment.