On August 25, just days before the start of the coming school year, the School Reform Commission will vote on a resolution to close the 116-year-old George W. Childs School building in South Philadelphia and move the 605 students, from pre-K to 8th grade, into nearby Barratt Middle School for the fall.
The plan – and the late notice to parents – prompted protests from the Childs community, but District officials say there are no other viable options. They maintain that the Childs building is unsafe and would be too expensive to repair or replace. Except for Barratt, there is no nearby place to relocate, they say.
“Our goal was to keep Childs’ pre-K-8 programs intact,” said Danielle Floyd, deputy chief of staff.
The Barratt building has space to spare because it will be down to 90 8th graders next fall; its feeder schools have all converted to K-8. Another August SRC resolution will authorize the closing of the Barratt educational program in June 2011. That fall, the Childs staff and students will have the building to themselves.
Childs parents have raised concerns about safety, pointing to a history of bullying incidents involving Barratt students. Judy Walston, parent of a Childs 8th grader, said she spent time in the Barratt building on primary election day, and observed that “students were out of control.”
Floyd said that the District is working on a strategy for dealing with safety issues, including building a “cross-school safety team,” a safe corridors program, and “unity block parties” to connect families from the two school communities.
With a facilities master plan promised for the fall, more school closings are on the horizon. State law requires 90 days notice and a hearing of the District’s governing board before a school can be closed.