Charter school eyes former Bishop McDevitt building - abc27 WHTM

Charter school eyes former Bishop McDevitt building

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A new educational opportunity may fill a vacant school building in Harrisburg. A city charter school is looking to buy the former Bishop McDevitt High School.

Ever since Bishop McDevitt moved to its new multi-million dollar home in Lower Paxton Township, many have wondered the fate of the old brick building on Market Street.

Turns out the 1930's gothic revival-style school building could become revived by a new wave charter school. Key Charter Schools president Ken Cherry said they have reached a tentative agreement to purchase the building for $1.75 million.

Cherry said the former high school would be turned into a school for kindergarten through ninth grade, with the goal of adding another grade every year the following four years. Cherry said pre-enrollment is about 115 students, about 20 percent of its expected enrollment of 1,100 students.

Harrisburg mayor-elect Eric Papenfuse said education is a cornerstone of success in the city. He believes a charter school could breed competition and offer parents a choice for their child.

"Anything which brings focused attention on the need for quality education and provides parents with choices is a very positive thing," he said.

Harrisburg superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney said she would not comment on the proposal until after Key Charter makes its formal presentation to the board Wednesday night.

Cherry said the majority of new student enrollment would come from current city schools. Critics argue that drawing a large number of students away from public education could hurt the district's performance in the long run.

After the first presentation, the school board is required to hold a public meeting before an application is filed to the state Department of Education for final approval. Gene Veno, Chief Recovery Officer for the school district, said he too would hold comment until after Key Charter has made its presentation and he has discussed the idea with school board members.

Papenfuse said the idea could prove beneficial by offering educational opportunities within the city and by filling a vacant building with expectations of modifying the historic landmark.

"I think it's very intriguing thing," he said. "I think it's something the community ought to consider and be seriously engaged in."


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