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Olney High, Stetson Middle to return to Philadelphia School District after a decade of charter control

District officials have emphasized that both schools will open in their same buildings, catchment areas will not change, and students’ education will not be interrupted.

Olney High School in December 2021.
Olney High School in December 2021.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

After more than a decade of charter control, Olney High and John B. Stetson Middle Schools will return to the Philadelphia School District for the 2022-23 academic year.

The long-expected move comes after a state panel in February upheld the Philadelphia school board’s decision not to renew the two ASPIRA charters — and nearly six years after the district’s charter schools office first recommended it end its partnership with the ASPIRA nonprofit for academic, operational, and financial reasons.

In June, the Philadelphia School District’s board approved the official authorization to inform the state that Olney and Stetson would open under district control for the 2022-23 school year, a spokesperson said.

» READ MORE: Philadelphia School District can take back two schools from charter control, a state board ruled

Since the charter nonrenewal, both schools have made public their transition plans, which began in February and are set to be completed in September. Olney, at Front and Duncannon Streets, enrolls more than 1,700 students, while Stetson in Kensington educates around 860 students in grades 5 through 8.

District officials have emphasized that both schools will open in their same buildings for the first day of class Aug. 29, catchment areas will not change, and students’ education will not be interrupted. Special-education curriculum and services for English-language learners will be available.

Michael Roth, who served as the principal of Olney Elementary for eight years, has been named principal of the high school. Many of the current Olney teachers will return to the high school under district leadership in the fall, he said.

“I plan to be at Olney High for a long time,” Roth wrote in a welcome letter to students and parents. “I think commitment and consistent leadership is essential for a healthy school community. As a school leader, in a large district with a lot of needs, I also promise to be a strong advocate for the Olney High School students, staff, and school community.”

Thomas Mullin, who served as Stetson principal under the ASPIRA charter, will continue to lead the middle school, a district spokesperson said.

This fall marks the first time the Philadelphia district will take back control of the schools it had relinquished in 2010 and 2011 under the Renaissance Schools initiative, which tapped outside providers to run struggling schools. The district has distanced itself from that approach in recent years.

» READ MORE: Philly school board to vote on ending charter agreements for two Aspira-run schools

According to a hearing officer’s report, while ASPIRA made progress in improving Olney’s and Stetson’s climates, it fell short on its academic and financial promises. ASPIRA, which manages several other charter schools in the city, fought for years to maintain control of Olney and Stetson.

“We are committed to making the overall transition process a smooth one for students and families,” the district said, vowing to ensure that the new district-operated schools “will be grounded in district standards while also preserving some of the existing programs, services, or unique elements that are important to you.”

In a statement, a spokesperson said the district’s board “expects a smooth transition and start of the new school year for the students, families and staff at both schools.”

“Parents can expect that Olney High School and Stetson Middle School will be safe, welcoming environments with rigorous academics and well-rounded extracurricular offerings,” the spokesperson said. “Returning students will also see many familiar faces, since many teachers and other school-based staff from the former Olney and Stetson charter schools have chosen to remain.”