$16M expansion of Phila. charter school begins

February 7, 2011 3:02:47 PM PST
A successful charter school in Philadelphia is ready to expand.

On Monday morning, Mayor Michael Nutter joined a host of local dignitaries for a groundbreaking on a $16 million expansion to the West Oak Lane Charter School.

"In this type of economic climate, where big projects are struggling to make things happen, this is a big project. $16 million is a whole lot of money," said Mayor Nutter.

The money will be used to construct 64,000 square feet of additional space for the school on Stenton Avenue.

"What's happening behind me is two years in the making," said school CEO Dr. Debbera Peoples-Lee. "We've outgrown our present building. Right now we have 747 students and we're filled to the brim."

Now the school can look forward to 45 new classrooms, a gym and several other educational rooms. It's also offering a number of new jobs.

"The construction alone is creating 216 construction jobs and 15 permanent jobs," said Jack Kitchen of OARC.

Dr. Peoples-Lee said if it wasn't for the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation, also known as OARC, none of this would've happened.

"Charter schools are only renewed every five years, so therefore banks don't give you that type of loan, knowing you only have a five year renewal, so OARC was able to instrument this for us and we're so thankful to Fulton Bank who has taken a chance on us," she said.

West Oak Lane Charter was established by OARC back in 1998 and, since then, the school has been excelling and changing the landscape of the community.

"We took an abandoned supermarket and turned around and made a modernized school 13 years later," said State Rep. Dwight Evans.

And now another old supermarket will soon be torn down to make way for even more children to attend the school.

The project is slated to be complete in in the fall.