PSP invests $1.5 million in expansion of Wissahickon Charter School

Grant from the Great Schools Fund will support the creation of a second K-8 campus to serve 500 additional students

The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) today announced it will invest $1.5 million from its Great Schools Fund to support the expansion of Wissahickon Charter School in Northwest Philadelphia. The grant will be administered over the course of three years and will allow the school to serve approximately 500 students on a second K-8 campus.

PSP selected the school for investment after a thorough due diligence process focused on academic outcomes, leadership quality, and capacity for growth. In September 2012, PSP made a $75,000 planning grant to Wissahickon Charter School (WCS) to support the creation of a strategic growth plan for the school. At full enrollment in 2017, WCS will serve 950 students at two campuses in Northwest Philadelphia. Currently, 92 percent of WCS students are minority and 77 percent are economically disadvantaged.

“Wissahickon Charter has demonstrated success in increasing student achievement and preparing students for success in high school, and now it will be accessible to more families,” said Mark Gleason, Executive Director of PSP. “Across each of the more than twenty schools the Great Schools Fund has invested in – private, charter, and District schools – we see unique strengths and common threads. These are schools that prepare students of all backgrounds to succeed in college; schools with visionary leaders who have the ability to build outstanding teams of educators; and schools in which the school leader and teachers believe that all students can achieve at high levels.”

In May 2012, WCS was granted a 5-year charter renewal and approval to expand by 500 students. As part of the renewal, WCS was given the option of opening a second K-8 campus in 2014, which will allocate at least 25 percent of its enrollment to students from an attendance zone made up of low-performing schools as determined by the School District charter office.

“This grant will enable Wissahickon Charter School to significantly expand the number of students we are able to serve while providing us with the ability to establish a new campus to serve these students,” said Kristina Littell, Co-CEO of Wissahickon Charter. “We are grateful for PSP’s support and excited to welcome more families into our school community.”

In March 2013, the William Penn Foundation approved a $500,000 grant to support the capital expenditures related to the building of the second WCS campus. With the William Penn funding in place, the PSP grant provides WCS with the necessary capital to complete the construction.

PSP’s Great Schools Fund pools philanthropic dollars from a diverse group of funders to strategically invest in the incubation, startup, expansion and turnaround of schools across Philadelphia. PSP has raised more than $50 million toward the Fund’s $100 million goal. This latest grant brings PSP’s total investments in schools to $21.3 million for the cumulative creation of over 10,500 seats in high-quality district, charter, private, and turnaround schools. PSP has been working closely with the District and school leadership teams to identify additional investment opportunities, with a focus on transforming student outcomes at one or more schools slated to receive an influx of students next fall under the District’s Facilities Master Plan.

About the Great Schools Fund

The Fund invests in K-12 schools of any type with the capacity to deliver outstanding educational outcomes for children in the city, including traditional district, charter, and private schools. The goal of the Fund is to replace the 35,000 lowest performing seats in Philadelphia by 2016-17 with higher performing ones by turning around low-performing schools, expanding high performing schools, or creating new high-quality schools. PSP’s investment team conducts a rigorous screening process for grant applicants to evaluate their capacity for delivering strong educational outcomes; its recommendations are vetted by an investment committee before being presented to the PSP Board of Directors for approval.

About the Wissahickon Charter School

Wissahickon Charter School is a K-8 public charter school with a “focus on the environment as an integrating theme for instruction.” WCS also places heavy emphasis on parental involvement, service learning, and interpersonal development. Since opening to 250 students in September of 2002, WCS has used environmental education to catalyze project-based learning and community service. Their location on the cusp of the Wissahickon Valley enables classroom instruction to extend beyond the classroom walls. This past school year, WCS enrolled 426 students in K-8. Ninety-two percent of WCS students are minority and 77 percent are economically disadvantaged, and they come from over 30 Philadelphia zip codes.