Other Renaissance school applicants were Universal Cos., which manages several charter schools in Philadelphia, including Audenried High School, and the Camden Center for Youth Development. Neither group could be reached for comment Friday evening. A district official who reviewed the applications Friday said the three applicants were vying for different sites.
The Camden school board will review all the applications next week. If the board accepts any, acting state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf would have to decide whether to approve the plan.
Camden interim School Superintendent Reuben Mills declined to comment on the proposals, deferring to the board.
Renaissance schools are similar to charter schools in that they are to be run by nonprofits and to receive most of their funding from public districts. They are freed from public bidding rules, however.
They were created last year through the Urban Hope Act - an idea Gov. Christie announced in Camden at a school housing Lanning Square students and sponsored by Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden), brother of George E. Norcross III, chairman of Cooper University Hospital. George Norcross is also a partner in the parent company of The Inquirer.
The five-school campus plan would count as one Renaissance project, according to the legislation.
The proposed KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy would have longer school days and an extended school year. Doctors and nurses from Cooper hospital and medical students from Cooper Medical School would be encouraged to mentor students, George Norcross said at a news conference Friday.
The first phase of the project, which would include an elementary and middle school at the site of the former Lanning Square school and is slated to be completed for the 2014-15 school year, is estimated to cost up to $40 million, Cooper Foundation president Susan Bass Levin said.
The three-block area the state cleared for a new Lanning Square Elementary School is owned mostly by the state School Development Authority. Spokeswoman Edye Maier said that as of Friday afternoon, the authority had not received a request from the Cooper Foundation or KIPP to buy or lease that land.
If the Cooper application is successful, the Camden Renaissance schools would be operated by KIPP's Newark operation, known as TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More). A soon-to-be-five-school cluster in Newark serves about 1,800 students in kindergarten through grade 12.
KIPP, which also operates charter schools in Philadelphia, opened the Freedom Academy Charter School in Camden in 2004 but ended its affiliation with the school in 2009 over dissatisfaction with the academy's performance, according to KIPP spokesman Steve Mancini. A few months ago, the state Department of Education required Freedom to submit a plan to improve its students' academic achievement. Freedom Academy was not operated by the Newark KIPP group, according to TEAM founder Ryan Hill.
The Camden project would be KIPP's first non-charter schools. Nationwide, KIPP operates 125 schools in 20 states and Washington.
The idea of five new schools in Lanning Square got mixed reviews from neighborhood residents Friday.
"Failure is not an option anymore," community activist Sheila Davis said, citing the district's poor academic performance and students' being housed in decrepit buildings up to a mile away. "We just wanted a school in the neighborhood."
Though supporting the idea of a neighborhood school, some residents, such as local activist R. Mangaliso Davis, have been opposed to anything but a traditional public school at the Lanning Square site.
"The people were given a promise of a replacement school, but they played politics with the people," Davis said. "This is greed. This is private industry running government."
Universal Cos. is the brainchild of Kenny Gamble, the music executive turned community developer. Gamble's organization has developed housing in Philadelphia and operates charter schools, including former failing district schools chosen for turnaround efforts.
The Camden Center for Youth Development began in 1977 as the Juvenile Resource Center, offering educational and counseling services. It offers various programs and supports to youth and youth-serving organizations.
Renaissance schools would receive 95 percent of per-pupil district money, which in Camden would equal about $22,000 per student. The Urban Hope Act allows for public money to be used to build facilities, whereas charters have to fund their buildings privately.
If any of the applicants acquires state-owned land for an approved Renaissance project, preference must be given to students in the catchment area designated by the district. If there is space left, a lottery will be conducted for students outside the area.
If a project is developed on privately owned land, enrollment preference is given to students in the attendance area identified by the applicant.
Cooper Lanning Square Renaissance School Inc. would have to acquire several blocks of land to complete the second phase and beyond.
"This is the beginning of a number of schools. . . . Hopefully, we will have dozens," George Norcross said Friday.
Negotiations with landowners or the city, which owns a lot of the vacant land in the area, have yet to begin, Bass Levin said.
Contact Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917, email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @InqCVargas. Read her blog, "Camden Flow," at www.philly.com/camden_flow/