ASPIRA wants to reunite Olney East and West

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

ASPIRA, Inc. plans to reunite Olney East and Olney West High Schools.

The School Advisory Councils (SACs) at both Olney East and Olney West High Schools have voted to approve the plans, which still need SRC approval, said ASPIRA Executive Director Alfredo Calderon.

But "in the new year, they will be one high school," said a hopeful Calderon on Tuesday.

Last Wednesday, the SRC voted to award two separate charters to ASPIRA to operate Olney East and Olney West as part of the Renaissance Schools turnaround initiative. The two schools currently share a single building at 100 West Duncannon Avenue. The building was divided into two schools in 2005 as part of the push for small high schools under former District CEO Paul Vallas.

Calderon said that ASPIRA is "thinking outside the box" about the possible structure of a reunited Olney, including exploring the possibility of breaking the school into separate academies, one for 9th and 10th graders and another for 11th and 12th graders.

"It’s going to be something a little different," he said, adding that the impetus for consolidation comes in part from a desire to minimize duplication of services.

District spokesperson Elizabeth Childs, however, said that the District needs to "find out more about the proposal before we make a recommendation to the [School Reform Commission.]"

"The operator cannot combine the charters without SRC approval," said Childs.

At one time, Olney High School was one of the largest in the state, with some 6,000 students. Today, Olney East has an enrollment of about 700 students and Olney West about 800.

This story is part of a news-gathering partnership between the Notebook and NewsWorks.