The Philadelphia public school system is undergoing some changes — changes that are rightfully capturing the attention of some service groups at Penn.
Several student service organizations are doing their best to maintain steady outside relationships with the schools that may be affected.
Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite announced his proposal to close or relocate 44 schools on January 13. The announcement came in a email to the School District of Philadelphia and came with a 12-page Facilities Master Plan document proposing schools that will close and those that will see major changes such as grade reconfiguration. If the plan is approved by the School Reform Commission, changes will take effect in June 2013.
According to the email, the closings would allow the overall school system to “improve learning opportunities for all students and overcome massive financial challenges.”
Student groups such as Community Schools Student Partnerships currently work with elementary schools slated to close.
CSSP works at Wilson Elementary at 46th Street and Woodland Avenue that will be merged with Henry C. Lea Elementary School at 47th and Locust streets if the proposed plan becomes official. The group also works with University City High School at 3601 Filbert Street which is also predicted to close. College sophomore and incoming Director of CSSP Jessica King said CSSP “has been trying to avoid speculation until the official closing decisions.”
“If [the schools we work with] close, [CSSP] would have to do some serious shifting to ensure those public school students continue to be supported by their Penn mentors through their transition,” she added.
It’s not uncommon for community service groups to face this sort of situation.
Last year, PennPals — a one-on-one mentorship program that has paired Penn students with those from Drew Elementary school at 38th and Powelton for over a decade — successfully changed their work site in West Philadelphia.
Last year Drew closed along with seven other schools in the district, and PennPals moved to Powel Elementary School at 36th and Powelton.
According to PennPals co-director and College senior James Sadler, Drew’s closing could have been very damaging to the organization. However, “[the PennPals board] last year planned for the worst very early on and [has] made a very successful transition into Powel.”
Since the move, PennPals has experienced a greater turnout of elementary students’ participating in the program. College sophomore and PennPals Community Outreach Chair Layla Rashid said involvement has also been easier for Penn students because Powel is more conveniently located.
Rashid added, however, that the PennPals board was concerned the move would hinder the relationship between Penn students and their pals. “We didn’t want to break the connection the kids already made,” she said.
As for the schools’ reaction to the proposals, one school leader is optimistic about his school’s future. Community Association President of Lea Elementary School Maurice Jones does not think the relocating process will have a dramatic impact on students.
“The school is planning ‘get to know’ meetings between students at Lea and Wilson as well as the parent communities,” he said.
Parents of the affected children, however, do not all share the same positive outlook. According to a press release, hundreds of concerned parents and other residents expressed their worry and disapproval outside the school district headquarters at 440 N. Broad Street last Sunday.