The word “persistent” describes the students, parents, teachers, and community members who stood at recent groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts and the Frances E. Willard Elementary School.
The struggle for the new Kensington High School building began in 2002 when members of Youth United for Change (YUC) first presented a plan to then-CEO Paul Vallas to break Kensington up into four small schools. Three years later, the high school was divided into three small schools: Kensington Business, Kensington Culinary Arts, and Kensington CAPA. But that same year a planned building for Kensington CAPA was removed from the District’s capital budget, and so students had to fight for an adequate facility, as well as arts resources.
The new $44 million building on N. Front St. will serve 400 students when it opens in 2010. Kensington CAPA sophomore Brittney White of YUC, who will be among the first students to attend the new school, said she is proud to be a part of a legacy of years of hard work.
“We sat in a lot of long meetings and held protests, and I am glad we are finally here,” she said.
Elizabeth Diaz, a parent of a fourth grader at Frances E. Willard Elementary School, is also glad to see the results of hard work. She along with other parents, community members, and members of the Eastern Pennsylvania Organizing Project (EPOP) campaigned for 12 years for a new Willard building. Currently, the school straddles multiple sites and has no library, gym or cafeteria.
“We organized meetings, distributed flyers, called people, and went to the big meetings. We kept pushing by also doing rallies,” Diaz said.
The new Willard will house grades K-8 and should be completed for the start of the 2009 school year. EPOP Director Allen Stevens said, “I look forward to working with parents to make sure that a high quality education takes place here.”