AFC lancaster lions

Players with the AFC Lancaster Lions practice before a game in this 2016 file photo.

In 2015, 13 years after he emigrated from Kenya to the United States, Brian Ombiji founded the AFC Lancaster Lions, a soccer club that teaches students life lessons through sport.

Now, Ombiji wants to take it a step further.

The former professional soccer player-turned-CEO is part of a group proposing a new, sports-infused charter school within the School District of Lancaster.

The school, called the AFCLL Academy Charter School, would serve about 100 students, with the hopes of reaching 200 in five years, in grades five through eight with a curriculum focused on college and career readiness.

In addition to the typical core subjects, the school would offer courses related to print and broadcast journalism, fitness and nutrition, scouting, analytics and other sports-centered topics.

Ombiji, 38, of Lancaster, said there's a need for a city school that will do "justice" by children through combining education and sports.

"I work with the kids every day, and I understand what they're going through, and that's what's pushing me," he said.

The typical school day at AFCLL Academy Charter School would last longer than what students may be used to. The school building would be open to students from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Following classes, which would end at 4 p.m., students would engage in a sports activity for two hours. The school, Ombiji said, would start with soccer but could expand opportunities later.

The school’s location hasn’t been finalized, Ombiji said, but it may end up sharing a space with the college prep program Attollo at 16 W. King St. Athletic programs would take place at Roberto Clemente Field off South Duke Street.

If approved by the school board, AFCLL Academy Charter School would become the second brick-and-mortar charter school in Lancaster, joining La Academia Partnership Charter School on North Ann Street.

Lancaster Superintendent Damaris Rau said the charter school's application requires a “careful evaluation,” but cited a common concern for charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run: the potential cost.

“If the School District is required to pay the charter school for 200 students, it would cost District taxpayers between $2.8 million and $3.3 million a year,” she said in an emailed statement, adding that costs could balloon if the school enrolls a large number of special education students.

Rau also expressed concern over the fact that the application did not provide any letters of support from the community for the school.

Lancaster school board President Edith Gallagher added that the timing of the application — in the middle of planning to reopen amid a pandemic — “could not be much worse.”

Gallagher said the board will do its “due diligence” in considering the application.

The board, she said, is required by law to vote on the charter school’s fate between Oct. 15 and Nov. 14.

A public hearing for the proposed charter school will take place Sept. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at McCaskey East High School.

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