Penn officials have wanted to collaborate with University City High School for some time now, but many community members who attended a public forum last night say Penn's help is not welcome.
At the forum, held to share plans with the community about renovations, Philadelphia School District leaders officially said they have been in discussion with Penn and Drexel for the past two years about the possibility of a partnership with University City High once it is renovated.
The talks with Penn and Drexel so far have involved the creation of a hybrid school, part neighborhood and part magnet. In the hypothetical school, 70 percent of students would be taken from the neighborhood and 30 percent from the rest of the city, as in a magnet school.
School district Chief Academic Officer Cassandra Jones said discussions with Penn involved the creation of a focused curriculum dealing with international studies, an idea that was not popular among the crowd.
"The students who go here are not interested in international business," social-studies teacher Lashundra Dixon said, suggesting a more vocational curriculum, such as nursing or mechanics.
"We have students who don't need a Ph.D., they need the skills to take care of the kids they already have," she said.
Jones stressed that no plans for a collaboration have been set in stone. But those present at the meeting still expressed dissatisfaction with certain aspects of plans to refurbish the school.
The renovations to improve the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems at University City High are scheduled to begin in 2010 and will require that the school be shut down for two school years.
Students will have be relocated during that period, which has sparked anger among parents, teachers and students.
Patricia Wood, a junior at University City High, said ever since students were informed on Monday that the school would be shutting down, emotions have run high.
"This is our community, this is our home," she said. "We look at our teachers like they're our family."
Jones said University City High would stop enrolling ninth graders in 2009, so by the time the school shuts down, fewer students would have to find alternative schooling options.
Jones said the school district is looking at which other high schools could temporarily house the misplaced students.
The University City High that reopens in 2012 will be different in more than just its heating and air-conditioning capabilities.
Jones said that as a part of the school district's five-year plan to reduce the size of high schools, University City High will only house about 400 students when it is reopened. That leaves open the possibility that two separate schools will coexist within the current building.
Most of the about 100 people who attended the meeting left unsatisfied with the plans.
"Why can't we entertain the idea of letting this thing ride out for two more years so no students have to be transferred?" parent Nancy Gilliam asked.Comments powered by Disqus
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