The board of Pittsburgh Public Schools has rejected a request from Propel Schools to open a K-8 charter school in Hazelwood.
The vote was 4-4, with one member, Floyd McCrea abstaining. Members Theresa Colaizzi, Sherry Hazuda, Bill Isler and Sharene Shealey voted in favor. Members Mark Brentley Sr., Jean Fink, Regina Holley and Thomas Sumpter were opposed.
The board had to approve the proposal or else Propel has a right to automatically appeal, school solicitor Ira Weiss said.
Jeremy Resnick, executive director of the Propel Schools Foundation, said Propel will appeal. "We're not going to go away," he said in an interview. "The community is looking for a Propel school, and that's why we submitted the application.
The school's plans call for opening with 300 students in K-6 and grow to 420 in K-8. Propel plans to house the school in the former St. Stephen Catholic School building, which closed in 2005.
A district review team said the Propel proposal met seven of nine criteria. The two not met concerned whether the school was innovative and could serve as a model.
At an agenda review meeting last week, board members expressed concern about those criteria -- some saying those are the critical reasons for a charter school in the first place.
Hazelwood has been without a public school since 2006, when the district closed Burgwin. Mr. Brentley said he favors re-opening Burgwin, saying that no other community "has taken the hit" like Hazelwood has.
Ms. Holley said that she thinks Propel doesn't offer a program that is different than what the district already offered. She also noted that if the Propel school becomes oversubscribed, there would be a lottery without any preference for the Hazelwood neighborhood. She said Burgwin should never have been closed.
Ms. Sumpter said there is a need for a school in Hazelwood.
Bricks-and-mortar charter schools are public schools that are chartered by a school district but operated by a separate board. Home school districts pay a fee set by the state for each student enrolled. In the case of Pittsburgh, the fee is about $12,000 for each regular education student and about $26,000 for each special education student.
Ms. Weiss said that cost cannot be considered when deciding whether to approve a charter school application.
Propel operates other charter schools, including Propel Northside in the city.
Education writer Eleanor Chute: email@example.com or 412-263-1955.