Two student groups and their allies are among those who see the District's $1.5 billion Capital Improvement Program as a landmark opportunity to transform Philadelphia's high schools.
The capital plan calls for building 20 new schools and renovating dozens more over the next five years, addressing a real need in a District where 71 percent of school buildings are more than 50 years old.
Responding to growing evidence that large, urban high schools often are not as good learning environments as smaller schools, the School District is expanding its roster of high schools and thereby aiming to reduce student enrollment at large high schools.
Creg Williams, the District's deputy chief academic officer in charge of high schools, said the District is implementing a "small schools" strategy not only to decrease the numbers of students in large high schools but also to provide "a whole lot more programmatic options for young people."
Looking for ideas on how to turn their large, low-performing high schools into small schools, Kensington and Olney High School students from the education organizing group Youth United for Change (YUC) set out to find successful examples of small schools around the country.
Last March, their search led them to the Julia Richman Education Complex, a building in New York City that is home to six small, autonomous schools ranging in size from 130 to 400 students.