Lincoln Charter advocates push expansion as York City vote nears

Lincoln Charter School’s five-year renewal and proposed middle school expansion will be up for a vote before the York City school board in about two weeks.

The 4,276-page application was submitted to York City School District in October, along with a proposal to expand the charter from K-5 to pre-K to 8. 

Officials are making a final push for families to show their support for the school ahead of the school board vote scheduled for July 22, asking them to send in email testimonials and speak at the city's upcoming board meetings.

"York City hear us, hear our pain," Akilah Hawkins, president of the Lincoln Charter School Parent Advisory Committee said at a Tuesday rally at the school playground before a group of about 40 people.

"We just want to be a part of your family," she added.

Akilah Hawkins of the Lincoln Parent Advisory Committee repeats calls for "renew, expand and grow"  during a rally for the parents and supporters of Lincoln Charter School, focused on the renewal, expansion and growth of Lincoln Charter School.
Tuesday, July 7, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

A petition in support of the renewal and expansion, and also asking for approval to open a new building for the expanded programming, had 419 signatures as of 4 p.m. Thursday.

The district has been supportive of the charter school in the past — offering a second chance when the school's former board submitted untimely audits and renewing the charter four times so far.

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

However, this year district officials were hit hard financially, 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.

More:'Wouldn’t wish on anybody': York City school board makes deep cuts

York City officials could not be reached for comment.

Hawkins said Lincoln is not advocating for continued expansion, but parents and school officials want to be able to provide the school's support system at least through the eighth grade, when students need it most.

David Overton, a culture and climate coach at Lincoln, said working at middle and high schools for 15 years, he realized how important it is to teach boys when they're young, before they fall behind.

David Overton, coacher and climate coach at Lincoln Charter School, voices his support and encourages parents and the community to support the school's charter renewal, and proposed expansion to include grades up to eigth during a parents rally Tuesday, July 7, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

"It is crucial how middle school affects the lives of children," he said.

A handful of parents and students spoke in favor of the school Tuesday, noting staff takes the time to know the students, offers a safety net and makes school feel like a family — even supporting students after graduation.

Shawn Jamison said though he's proud to have graduated from York City schools, he recognizes that some students, especially in the inner city, need extra attention and accountability, and he's grateful Lincoln did not give up on his daughter Shakira, 11.

Shawn Jamison, father of fifth grade student Shakira, voices his support for the renewal, expansion and growth of Lincoln Charter School during a rally, Tuesday, July 7, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

"My daughter went from missing 51 days of school one year and failing to missing one day of school and passing," he said to much applause.

In November, Lincoln’s school board approved a lease of 23,114 square feet of space within a property at 459 W. King St., The space used to house the former New Hope Academy Charter School, which closed in 2014.

More:Thackston Charter: A look back at New Hope, York City's last charter school fight

They plan to house the school's new sixth grade class there the first year, if approved, and add subsequent grades each year.

Lincoln officials have said they plan to use it for community outreach programs regardless of whether the expansion is granted. The building would be about a block from the main school.

If granted, this would be the fourth renewal for Lincoln, which first applied to be a charter 20 years ago. The school had an enrollment of 675 students in kindergarten through fifth grade as of November.

The city school board is scheduled to discuss the proposal at its committee meeting Monday and vote at its regular board meeting July 22.