Khepera Charter School says it expects to open next month. (File photo).
File photo
Khepera Charter School says it expects to open next month. (File photo).

Khepera Charter School in North Philadelphia, which ended the school year early because of financial problems, insists that it will open for students next month, but it's facing daunting odds.

Its landlord has asked Common Pleas Court to kick the K-8 school out of its building on Sedgley Avenue for unpaid rent.

Teachers complain that the school still owes them wages from the last school year.

And a company that provides special education teachers, substitutes and counselors sued Khepera last week, saying the charter owes it money, too.

General Healthcare Resources Inc., based in Plymouth Meeting, said in a court filing that the school had not made any payments since April and owed the firm about $86,683 for staffing services.

The school's problems are not new. It's the only charter school among more than 80 citywide that faces revocation of its charter.

Officials at Khepera did not respond to email or phone calls Monday seeking comment. Located at 926 W. Sedgleym the charter had 450 K-8 students in the last academic year. The school opened in 2004 and has an African-centered curriculum.

"I know that every signal that the school is sending at this point … is that they are intending to open," said Dan Dueholm, a staff representative with the Alliance for Charter School Employees, the union that represents 16 Khepera employees. "But where and how has not been established."

Lee Whack, a Philadelphia School District spokesman, said Khepera has told the charter school office that it plans to open in September. He said the charter submitted a school calendar for the 2017-18 year, requested busing services for its students "and maintains that it will be open."

Whack said that Khepera was set to receive its full payment from the district for August of $399,350.

He said that the district's charter office has been assisting Khepera parents who have asked for help finding new spots in district schools for the fall. But Whack said the district cannot contact parents directly about enrolling their children in other schools as long as Khepera says it will be opening.

Khepera received no payment from the district for June and only a partial payment in July because it owed the district money for contributions to the state teachers' pension system.

When a charter school fails to make pension payments, the amount is deducted from funds the district receives from the state. The district recovers the money by withholding that amount from monthly charter payments.

The loss of  June's payment caused Khepera to end the school year early. Charter officials said at the time that the school closed only a few days early and that students missed out on some end-of-the-year activities but not instruction.

Later in  June, the School Reform Commission voted to begin the process of revoking Khepera's operating charter for declining academic performance and financial instability. Among other things, the SRC noted that the charter had failed to submit annual financial reports for 2015 and 2016, which are required by state law. The school also failed to make more than $1 million in payments to the state teachers pension system in the last fiscal year.

A public hearing on the revocation will begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at district headquarters. The hearing is expected to last several days. State law allows a charter to remain open pending a final vote by the SRC.