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Round 2 of new charter hearings probes demographics and bottom lines

Photo: Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

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

In the wake of two charter schools closing abruptly last month, the Philadelphia School District entered a second round of hearings Monday on 40 proposed new charter schools.

While the first round consisted of 15-minute pitches by charter school applicants promising new buildings and better neighborhoods, this round of hearings is designed to dig into the weeds of the applications, to "obtain additional data" before making a decision, said Allison Peterson, a lawyer with the Levin Legal Group who is acting as the hearing officer on behalf of the School Reform Commission.

Megan Reamer, program officer from the District’s Charter School Office, relayed comments and answered questions. Neither SRC members nor senior leadership from the School District attended.

Each hearing consisted of comments on the applications by Reamer, on behalf of the District, followed by a question-and-answer period where Peterson asked District officials and applicants for more information on the applications "for clarity that the SRC needs." Finally, applicants had up to 15 minutes for a closing presentation.

First up was an application by New Foundations Charter, which already operates a K-12 school in the Holmesburg area of Northeast Philadelphia. Seven representatives from New Foundations, led by CEO Paul Stadelburg, answered questions on their application for another K-12 school, which would be in the Brewerytown neighborhood.

Reamer and Peterson questioned the proposed charter’s ability to replicate its academic successes in a neighborhood with very different demographics from those in Holmesburg.

According to Reamer, New Foundations has served a population "historically less disadvantaged than an average District school," with less than 1 percent of students falling into the English language learner (ELL) category, for example.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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