As 2014 comes to a close, it’s time to look back on the biggest education stories to hit York County.
Margie Orr watches a rally outside a York City schools meeting. (Jeff Lautenberger photo)
York City schools: So much has happened in one year, and yet, there’s so much we still don’t know.
The possibility that district schools will be converted to charters operated by an outside company grew closer to reality in 2014. The school board put out a request for proposals seeking operators to run district buildings, and those companies began making appearances in the district – usually accompanied by protests.
In October, the school board rejected a proposal to have a few buildings operated by a charter company. Recovery officer David Meckley then directed the board to approve an agreement to turn all schools in to charters, operated by Charter Schools USA. The board tabled that action in November, leading the state to request Meckley be named receiver – a request the court granted.
But the decision drew almost immediate appeals. As 2014 comes to an end, it’s still uncertain what comes next. Need to catch up? Check out this timeline going back to 2012, which we’ve been updating with stories for several months.
New Hope Academy: The city also saw the end of a charter school in 2014. New Hope Academy fought through Commonwealth Court to remain open, but in the end, lost a bid to have its charter renewed. Its final class of graduates said farewell in June, and the school then auctioned everything from the desks to the Mighty Ant mascot costume.
The management company that operated the school fronted a new private school to try to accommodate some of New Hope’s students. But hundreds returned to the York City School District, which reopened a school in part to accommodate them. New Hope has since been wrapping up its finances, and a lawsuit filed by parents of students is still making its way through federal court.
Washington Township: Miles north of the city, a debate has heated up over whether the township with about 300 students should be switched from the Dover Area School District to the Northern York County School District. Over the summer, the state education department found, in reviewing a petition from the Washington Township Education Coalition, that the move would have educational merit. But in recent months, parents who don’t want their children to switch districts have been vocal in opposition, and the Northern York district has contemplated what the move would mean there.
A student solves a math problem at Orendorf Elementary School. Changes to state educational standards have caused changes in the classroom. (File photo)
Several parties asked the state board to hold hearings on the matter, so it’s another issue that will stretch into 2015.
Common Core: New educational standards continued to draw headlines in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in 2014. In York County, several classroom teachers invited me in to see how they are changing their practices to meet the new standards. Around September, Gov. Tom Corbett called for continuing review of the already-adopted and much-debated standards, and everyone was pretty confused about it. (There’s still time to review and weigh in, if you want to do that.)
Snow days: Why would I include snow days? There were a lot of them.
Really, a lot.
A York County Parks truck dumps snow cleared from the York County Judicial Center at Small Field. (File photo)
Actually, some of them weren’t even really “snow” days, but rather really, really cold days. Mother Nature snatched districts’ planned make-up days, dented holiday breaks and threatened to mess with graduations as districts worked to provide the required days/hours of school.
Months after the extraordinary amount of cancellations in many districts, the state education department to announce plans for a flexible program that could allow districts to use online or other programs to keep kids learning even when snow keeps them at home – but districts would have a lot of work to make it happen.
What are your hopes for schools in 2015?