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Penn Alexander protest, people lined up, closing, school, parents, petitions Credit: Amanda Suarez , Amanda Suarez

After several days of speculation, the School District of Philadelphia officially confirmed that the waitlist system for the Penn Alexander School will be undergoing significant changes.

“There are changes to the practices of maintaining … a historical waiting list,” said district spokesperson Fernando Gallard. The waitlist will expire every year on June 30, he said, and will be repopulated each year during registration. Each year, students will be placed on the waitlist in the order that they register for the school.

Students who were on the waitlist before July 1 of this year will retain their place in the future ahead of students who register later.

Gallard said the school district will officially communicate the decision to residents by sending a letter to parents of students on the waitlist to see whether they wish to remain on the list.

“We want to make sure that we have the same practices in all our schools,” Gallard said. “There were a lot of things in Penn Alexander that were different from all of our other schools.”

The new system will match systems at other schools in the district with waitlists, such as J.R. Masterman High School and Central High School.

Penn Alexander declined to comment on the change.

The West Philly Local report’s sole source was Terrilyn McCormick, chair of Penn Alexander’s School Advisory Council. McCormick did not respond to messages left on her home phone over a period of two days.

The alteration is Penn Alexander’s second this year — the school suddenly changed to a lottery system on Jan. 18 after its first-come, first-serve system caused parents to line up days in advance to register their children for kindergarten.

In January, school officials made the announcement the Friday night before Penn Alexander’s official registration date as parents lined Locust Street, some huddled in tents and others clustered around small torches to beat the cold weather. Later in the night, Gallard himself came down to the school to speak to the parents and take questions.

Even before the Jan. 18 lottery change, Penn Alexander’s admissions policies had sparked ire. In 2011, the school announced it would no longer accept all students within its geographical zone due to overcrowding. The following October, parents submitted a petition with over 450 signatures to the Penn administration arguing that the University should take a more active role in solving the overcrowding.

Penn currently provides $1,330 per student to Penn Alexander — a total of about $700,000 per year. Last year, the University decided to fund an additional kindergarten class.

Staff writer Bryce Arbour contributed reporting.

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