One of the oldest charter schools in Philadelphia has agreed to shut down in June rather than fight allegations of poor test scores, declining graduation rates, and other deficiencies.
The School District announced Friday that World Communications Charter School in Southwest Center City - one of the four original charters that opened in the district in 1997 - has agreed to close at the end of the academic year and forgo an appeal to the state Charter Appeal Board.
Marjorie Neff, chair of the School Reform Commission, said the settlement reached with World Communications would provide ample time for the school's more than 425 sixth- through 12th-grade students to find new schools for the next academic year.
She said it was critical that the World Communications trustees had acted "in a time frame that allows students and families to participate in the school selection process" for the 2017-18 school year, before the Nov. 14 deadline.
Neff said the district and its Charter Schools Office were prepared to assist students and families and work with the charter to ensure a smooth transition.
World Communications has been dogged by allegations of academic, management and financial problems for years and came close to losing its charter in 2012.
Charter officials had vowed to fight when the SRC voted in July to deny a new five-year operating agreement for the school on South Broad Street and began the process of closing it.
A hearing scheduled to start Monday was postponed as World Communications officials talked to the district about a voluntary closing.
School officials did not respond to requests for comment.
But Victoria A. Mosley Rivers, president of the charter board, said in a news release Friday, "After careful consideration, we made the difficult determination that this [the closing] is the best course of action for our students, families and staff."
Former district official Leroy Nunnery Jr., a consultant at World Communications, said the school had wanted to remain open. "Unfortunately, we could no longer afford the immense financial strain involved in trying to convince the district that we deserved to have our charter renewed or extended."
Rivers said the school was "fully dedicated to educating our students" for the remainder of the current academic year and would assist seniors with college admissions and career placements.
World Communications also said it would work with the district to find new schools for younger students to attend next fall.
For the last three years, test scores at World Communications have been below averages for district and charter schools in all subjects.
"Not only was there under-performance, but the performance has been in a rapid and consistent decline over the past three years," DawnLynne Kacer, executive director of the district's charter office, told the SRC in July.
She said the high school program at World Communications had ranked among the lowest of high schools in the city in achievement and progress on the district's School Progress Report for 2014-15.
In 2012, the charter office recommended denying the school a new five-year agreement because of financial, management and academic shortcomings. The SRC granted the school a new charter with 22 conditions, including requiring it to hire an academic consultant, replace the board chair, and submit a five-year improvement plan. The charter office found that it had not complied with all 22 conditions.