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Lincoln Charter looking to add grades with charter renewal

Lincoln Charter School officials are planning to request a shift from an elementary grade structure to incorporate middle school — a group of students they say are missing out on critical support before high school.

"Lincoln is, in many ways, a cocoon," said Anne Clark, director of community outreach.

Students who excelled within the structure and culture of Lincoln no longer have that academic, behavioral and social support in middle school, which includes the difficult coming-of-age years, she said.

President and CEO Leonard Hart said he doesn't want to look back at the violence in York City — in which many of the youth have been involved — and wonder what the school could have done differently.

More:York City police probe whether shootings, home invasions are related

Hart announced at a monthly school improvement meeting Saturday, Sept. 7, that Lincoln's five-year charter renewal is coming up this fall and officials plan to ask for a restructure from K-5 to pre-K-8.

The restructure request is due Oct 1, and the charter renewal application is due to chartering district York City on Oct. 31.

"I don't pull punches," Hart said. "There's not going to be a pat on our back to expand, because we'll be pulling students from other districts."

Tamar McMillian, left, takes a selfie with her daughter Ondia Thomas, 6, during the Lincoln Charter School Muffins with Mom program, Wednesday, March 20, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

But Clark 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.

More:York City district aims to recover 75 students with 'aggressive outreach' campaign

"It's not an 'us against them,'" Hart said. It's about creating a systemic approach to education with a community of schools, he said, not about which entity is getting the money.

Students are failing out of universities and community colleges, and college is not for everyone, but every student does need a basic foundation of skills, he added.

"What's happening in our city is bigger than Lincoln," he said.

Community leaders, faculty and parents who attended the Saturday meeting were supportive of the school's direction and agreed to be advocates of the school by showing their support for the good it has done for students and the community.

Hart said Lincoln is among the oldest charter schools in the commonwealth and is coming up on the 20th anniversary of its first charter application on Nov. 15.

More:Lincoln Charter celebrates school choice with $1,500 raffle, schoolwide dance

"For 20 years we've been doing something right," he said, adding that he hopes the district — with which he said the school has a good relationship — will be in favor of change.

Principal Dr. Leonard S. Hart shares his story of being born to a teenage single mother in Baltimore, passing through the foster system and returning to his mother to nearly 400 mothers attending the Lincoln Charter School Muffins with Mom program, Wednesday, March 20, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

It's not a physical expansion, officials said, though adding to the school's footprint is something officials will look into in the future.

Lincoln has more than 150 students on a waiting list — which is growing every day, Hart said, so the school is running out of space.

The change would add one grade each year, beginning with sixth next year, if approved.