Next week, acting Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Wulfson will recommend approval of Phoenix Academy Public Charter High School, Lawrence, which would open in the city at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
Phoenix Charter Academy Network — which operates charters in Chelsea and Springfield — serves youths who have dropped out of or been expelled from school, have struggled with truancy and chronic absenteeism in the past, are court involved, are pregnant or parenting children of their own, or are recent immigrants.
If the new school is chartered, the in-district Phoenix Academy Lawrence would close, according to Phoenix’s charter application to the state.
Phoenix Academy Lawrence opened in August 2012, serving students ages 14-22.
The new school would be regional, serving students from Lawrence, Haverhill, and Methuen, and as a Commonwealth charter, fully autonomous and independent from the Lawrence public school district.
“Both the Phoenix Network and the Lawrence Public Schools District believe that a regional Commonwealth charter school model would provide Phoenix with the opportunity to expand its impact in Lawrence and its surrounding communities of Methuen and Haverhill,” the application reads.
If the Board approves a charter for Phoenix Lawrence, students currently enrolled in the academy would have to apply for a spot in the new charter school, according to a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokesperson.
At the moment, the Phoenix school that’s part of Lawrence Public Schools has 120 students. The school is seeking 175 seats in its first year, which would leave enough room for existing students if they choose to apply.
According to the school’s application, Phoenix Academy Lawrence’s leadership team has “started discussing with students and adult supporters Phoenix’s goal of closing [Phoenix Academy Lawrence] and opening a regional Commonwealth charter school, serving Lawrence, Haverhill, and Methuen. Through these initial conversations, Phoenix feels confident that the majority of PAL’s current students, supported by their adult supporters, will want to enroll” at the new regional charter.
As part of the 2017-18 charter school application cycle, the state received three prospectuses to open new charter schools and one letter of intent from an existing school to open an additional school. In September, Commissioner Wulfson invited Phoenix and Equity Lab, in Lynn, to submit final applications. Of those, he is recommending just Phoenix for approval.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will decide whether to grant the charter to the recommended school at its Feb. 27 meeting in Malden.