School Reform Commission approves new MaST school

One of the lucky ones: In this file photo, students study in the MaST Community Charter School library. The school was among 39 applicants for new charters and the only one from the Northeast to get the SRC’s blessing last week. TIMES FILE PHOTO

John F. Swoyer III received some good news from the School Reform Commission last week, but it came with a little uncertainty.

Swoyer, CEO of MaST Community Charter School, got the word Feb. 18 that the SRC had approved a new MaST school.

“And, we’re happy we got that approval,” he said in an interview Feb. 20, but he said he didn’t expect the SRC to place any conditions on the OK. How firmly those strings will remain attached currently are unknown.

The school was among 39 applicants for new charters and the only one from the Northeast to get the SRC’s blessing last week. Swoyer said MaST wants to build another K-12 school to accommodate almost 3,000 students over five years near Chickie’s and Pete’s on the 11000 block of the Roosevelt Boulevard.

Instead, the SRC gave MaST a three-year charter, told it to find another location and told the charter not to open the new school until 2016.

Swoyer said he expects the SRC to set up a meeting to work out the details.

Meanwhile, the school is about to hold its lottery to admit students to its Byberry Road school. Only 96 names will be selected from more than 7,100 applicants from 41 ZIP codes, Swoyer said. Opening another school this year, he said, would have accommodated 2,925, or 40 percent, of those applicants over five years.

Backing up the opening of the new MaST building, wherever it winds up, Swoyer said, means parents must enter the lottery in October for a drawing in February 2016. Needless to say, there are a lot of concerned parents.

“We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls about this,” he said.

The SRC turned down applications by American Paradigm Charter School; Franklin Towne Charter Middle School; and Keystone Preparatory Charter School.

The fact that only five new charters were chosen was devastating news to Philly School Choice, a pro-charter school group.

“Tens of thousands of Philadelphia families on charter school waiting lists will feel ignored and disrespected by this news,” said David Hardy, Philly School Choice spokesman and CEO of Philadelphia Boys Latin. “The SRC would rather use its limited resources to keep open chronically failing district schools than allow proven, high-performing charter schools to expand.”

Mayor Michael Nutter, however, approved of the SCR’s charter OKs, calling them prudent.

“Approving five charter applications does not have a fiscal impact on the school district’s budget starting in July, and it has minimal impact on the final years of the District Five Year Plan,” the mayor stated. “The new charter seats … are roughly the same in number as those in other charters that are closing or likely to close this year.” ••