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Philly’s Khepera Charter School loses appeal, plans to close next year

The K-8 school, which opened in 2004 with an African-centered curriculum, has struggled financially.

Khepera Charter School in North Philadelphia
Khepera Charter School in North PhiladelphiaRead moreFile photo

Khepera Charter School in North Philadelphia, which had its charter revoked last year after complaints it hadn't paid teachers or rent, has lost its appeal to a state board and is planning to close at the end of the school year.

Christina Grant, head of the district's Charter Schools Office, told school board members at a committee meeting Thursday that the Philadelphia School District had notified families through robocalls and was preparing for a June 30 closure of the school at 926 W. Sedgley Ave.

Khepera's CEO, Dana King, on Friday confirmed the school's plans to close. In an email, she cited the cost of an appeal in saying the school would not challenge the decision.

The K-8 school, which opened in 2004 with an African-centered curriculum, has struggled financially. In 2016, an ex-administrator sued the school, alleging he was wrongfully dismissed for reporting concerns about the school's governance and finances.

The school was accused of not making some required payments to the state pension system in 2016 and 2017. In early 2017, it laid off staff. The school's landlord then sued Khepera, alleging it had fallen behind on rent payments.

The state-appointed School Reform Commission moved to revoke Khepera's charter in June 2017, also citing academic performance.

But closing charter schools in Philadelphia takes time. After a series of hearings, the SRC, which has since been replaced by a locally appointed school board, voted again in December to close Khepera.

The school appealed to the state Charter Appeals Board in February, arguing that its academic performance had been unfairly evaluated and that its payroll issues had been resolved.

The board denied the appeal at its meeting Oct. 30, according to a state Department of Education spokesperson. A formal order is still being prepared.

Khepera currently enrolls 384 students, according to district officials. Its enrollment cap is 450.

At Thursday's school board committee meeting, member Chris McGinley questioned why the school was being permitted to operate through June. "It's such a long period of time that an already notably chaotic environment may become worse for kids," McGinley said.

Grant, the charter schools head, said 89 schools would be affected if Khepera closed immediately. She said the district will be providing parents with information on their options if they choose to remove students now or keep them in the school through the end of the year.

The district will be monitoring week-to-week enrollment and "making sure we don't have a situation where mass amounts of teachers have quit," Grant told the committee.

District officials said that to their knowledge, the school has not had payroll issues so far this year.