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PSP gives $4.7M to expand high-performing charter schools

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

by Mark McHugh

The Philadelphia School Partnership announced Thursday that it would give $4.7 million in grants toward the expansion and improvement of several charter schools and the design of a new kind of high school.

The breakdown in grants goes like this:

  • A $3.5 million multi-year grant to Mastery Charter Schools to add 1,638 seats;
  • $1.1 million to a new 320-seat middle school run by Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School;
  • $55,000 to Freire Charter School for technical assistance;
  • $50,000 to Building 21 to plan and design a new high school model in collaboration with the School District;
  • $40,000 to Folk Arts Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS) to help recruit and retain effective school leaders.

Of the more than 1,600 seats that Mastery intends to add, 650 are dedicated to the turnaround of Pastorius Elementary in North Philadelphia, designated earlier this year to become a Renaissance school run by Mastery.

The School Reform Commission, though, has yet to approve the charter agreement between the school and its chosen charter operator, leaving open the possibility that Mastery will not be taking over Pastorius this fall. If the agreement fails to be approved, it is unclear what will happen to the money set aside for Pastorius’ conversion to a Renaissance school.

Mark Gleason, PSP’s executive director, said he was unable to offer any specifics on the status of Pastorius, but remained hopeful.

“We’re optimistic that Renaissance will move forward and, most importantly, parents and community members from these schools are expecting the process to move ahead.”

With the District’s financial picture still unclear, it remains uncertain when the SRC will make a decision on Pastorius.

Partnering with the District, Building 21, a local educational design nonprofit group co-founded by former Philladelphia Youth Network president Laura Shubilla, is now designing an alternative-style high school where learning is explored in contemporary, non-traditional ways. The school would cater to students aged 14 to 24 and expects teachers to be skilled in unique areas, such as youth development and neuroscience. The first school is slated to open in the fall of 2014.

The Philadelphia School Partnership’s goal is to replace the 35,000 lowest-performing seats in Philadelphia with higher-performing ones by the 2016-17 school year. Thus far, the influential nonprofit has raised $60 million of its stated goal of $100 million for its Great Schools Fund, of which $26 million has already been invested in various initiatives.

Mark McHugh is an intern at the Notebook.

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