Reform commission approves third MaST school

The new school will also be open to all students, but half will come from Olney, Frankford, Logan and North Philadelphia.


By John Cole

Last Thursday, the School Reform Commission approved one new charter school for Philadelphia, while denying six others.

The lone school approved was for a third Math and Science Technology K-12 campus.

“We were elated and really excited to get approved there,” said MaST CEO John Swoyer III.

The MaST III application to the SRC was for a K-12 school serving 2,600 students slated to open this fall. Despite the SRC’s approval for MaST III, it provided a list of conditions that were different from the original proposal.

The school will now open in the fall of 2019 and will accept only 1,300 students, half of what MaST originally had anticipated.

“Although we’re really excited about having a charter, we need to work through these conditions with the school district and understand exactly what they mean,” said Swoyer. “We will and we’ll figure it out, we’ll work it out.”

MaST III’s campus was anticipated to be at the Crown, Cork & Seal property on Roosevelt Boulevard. Crown Cork & Seal sold the property to a realty firm and is looking to move into a headquarters outside of Philadelphia. The possible campus at Crown, Cork & Seal would be 41 acres, much larger than the campus on Byberry Road, which is just four acres. However, with the new conditions from the SRC, Swoyer cannot confirm that this will be the location of MaST III.

“The Crown, Cork and Seal location was built off of 2,600 students, which was a much larger budget,” Swoyer said. “The building is also 240,000 square feet, which would be ideal for 2,600 kids. For 1,300 kids, that’s a lot of extra real estate that you’d be paying for.”

Swoyer mentioned he was not shocked that MaST was not approved for 2,600 students, but with the condition being half of what it requested, other locations are now on the table.

“Based on the new conditions, we are considering whether or not the Crown location is affordable to the new school model,” said Swoyer. “We don’t have the location defined, and we’re actively looking.”

The SRC has also demanded, to increase diversity, that at least half of MaST III’s seats will be reserved for children living in the following four ZIP codes: 19120, 19124, 19140 and 19141, which are in the Olney, Frankford, Logan and North Philadelphia areas.

Just last year, between MaST I and MaST II, the schools had 15,000 applications for just 250 seats. The school also had over 2,800 petitions for MaST III, according to Swoyer.

“So there’s strong evidence that people wanted a third MaST,” Swoyer said.

The four ZIP codes that will contribute to at least half of the student body are not expected to be located near the MaST III campus. The SRC has added that MaST III has to provide transportation assistance to kindergarten students living in those areas. Despite the lack of proximity to the school for these four ZIP codes, Swoyer stated that he doesn’t think it will be difficult to find students willing to attend MaST III there.

“We probably have close to 800 applications from those ZIP codes (for the 50-percent priority ZIP codes), so I don’t think it’s going to be a problem of recruitment,” Swoyer said.

MaST III can take up to 900 students in its first year of operation, and after five years will reach the 1,300 final total.

Swoyer believes that a lot of good schools applied that night to the SRC, but felt honored that MaST was the only one selected.

“The fact that MaST was the only one approved definitely speaks volumes to what people want to see in Philadelphia, which is more high-quality options for their children.” ••