The York Academy Regional Charter School grew out of the efforts of YorkCounts, a community-wide initiative which began in York County in 1996. David Rusk, a leading urban expert, conducted a study of the community with the particular goal of improving York City, the urban heart of the county. The Rusk Report ultimately yielded four education and four municipal recommendations: York Academy is a direct outgrowth of one of Rusk’s education recommendations. (See yorkcounts.org) After 2½ years of study involving 25 – 30 community volunteers, including the school superintendents from the City of York and the four first-ring suburbs, the organizing committee presented the charter application to three York County school districts on November 13, 2009: The School District of the City of York, the York Suburban School District and The Central York School District. By the end of February of 2010, each of these three districts had approved the charter application, two of them unanimously. York Academy is unique in two primary ways: (1) the school is the only three-district charter school in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and (2) the school is the only charter school in the Commonwealth which has combined students from school districts with dramatically different racial and socio-economic profiles. Education experts indicate that any school district with a poverty level exceeding 40% will experience difficulty reaching acceptable academic performance levels. Because of the 85% poverty level in The School District of the City of York and the inevitable social problems which go along with a high-poverty population, young middle-class families elect not to establish residency in the city. These educated families will not keep their children in a school system which consistently fails to meet state and federal standards. The absence of a middle-class population has widespread effects, not just on the school district but also on the general civic life of York. A committed business community continues to roll out well-conceived redevelopment efforts, but these efforts will not transform city living in the long term unless there is an alternative to the city schools that will keep young middle-class families in the city. YorkCounts charged the community to develop an alternate education opportunity that could serve to keep young middle-class families in the city and also provide a first-rate education to students whose families lack the financial means to move out of the city.
York Academy was designed to provide academic programming that would enrich a large number of city students and honor one of David Rusk’s recommendations by establishing a charter school combining York city and York county students. To make York Academy attractive to both suburban and city parents the proposal had to be bold and strong and innovative. The group pursued the International Baccalaureate Programme for its internationally-recognized, unique, transdisciplinary approach to education that creates an academically challenging and personally enriching environment. York Academy is the only three-district, K-12 regional charter school recognized as a fully-accredited International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme school and is an authorized IB World School. York Academy opened on August 22, 2011 in the historic, pre-Civil War Smyser-Royer building located at 32 W. North Street in the City of York with students in kindergarten, first, and second grades and will continue to add one grade each year until it reaches full implementation as a K-12 school.