This piece was originally published by Notebook partner PlanPhilly's blog Eyes on the Street. EOTS is a blog about good design, great neighborhoods, vibrant communities, interesting architecture, smart planning and development projects, and the many people who make those things happen in Philadelphia.
Developer Eric Blumenfeld is dreaming up a new future for the vacant Thaddeus Stevens School of Practice on Spring Garden Street east of Broad. Blumenfeld is in contract to acquire the building and wants to redevelop it into a mixed-use commercial arts and residential property.
You might know the Stevens building as host to the huge Common Threads mural above the parking lot on the northeast corner of Spring Garden and Broad. But turn the corner and head east on Spring Garden and you’ll notice the vacant but beautiful 1920s school building clad in special Sayre and Fisher bricks, accented by colorful terracotta tile flourishes.
[Updated Friday with video] At Thursday's School Reform Commission monthly action meeting, more than 40 speakers were on the agenda, with school closings and charter renewals and expansions among the hot topics.
As at other recent SRC meetings, contingents turned out again from two elementary schools targeted for closing, E.M. Stanton and Sheppard. The SRC heard passionate testimony from both schools. Notebook news partner PlanPhilly compiled video testimony on the topic of school closings from those who came because of the issue.
[Updated 3/3, 7:53 p.m.] Community responses to the School District's recommendations on school closings got underway Saturday morning, starting with a drum circle and rap by students from E.M. Stanton Elementary, one of the schools District staff has proposed to shut down.
The all-day series of public hearings, covering 10 schools, was streamed live.
The Notebook provided online coverage, summarizing the District's position on why each school should be closed, highlighting comments from the community on each plan, and any response from the commissioners.
The hearing schedule was:
8:30-9:30 a.m. E.M. Stanton Elementary
9:30-10:30 a.m. Harrison Elementary
10:30-11:30 a.m. Pepper Middle
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. FitzSimons High closure, grade reconfiguration at Rhodes High
1-2 p.m. Sheppard Elementary
2-3 p.m. Philadelphia HS for Business
3-4 p.m. Sheridan West Academy Middle
4-5 p.m. Drew Elementary
5-6 p.m. Levering Elementary
6-7 p.m. AMY Northwest relocation to Levering site
In this multimedia feature, reporter Benjamin Herold examines Philadelphia's Great Schools Compact through a look inside Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter, a new study by the Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Project, and an interview Mark Gleason of the Philadelphia School Partnership.
Every morning, 11-year-old Quentin Davis practices ballet for 90 minutes.
Davis isn’t a prodigy. He's just a regular 6th-grader at the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School in South Philadelphia. At PPACS, one of the city’s most popular and highest-performing charters, kids get seven hours of classical arts instruction every week, and they can "major" in everything from ballet to vocal arts.
“This school is incredible,” said Davis. “You get to do different things and express yourself how you like to do it.”
NOTE: This meeting was originally scheduled for tonight (Thursday, January 19), but took place on January 18 instead due to the SRC meeting schedule.
The School District of Philadelphia weighed a lot of factors before settling on the nine schools it proposes closing to eliminate some of the 70,000 empty seats in the city’s public school classrooms: enrollment, demographic trends, the age and condition of the building, to name just a few.
If pluck and persistence had been part of the formula, E.M. Stanton Elementary School never would have made the list of targets.
At the far southwestern edge of Philadelphia, just north of the airport and two blocks away from the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, lies George W. Pepper Middle School.
By Philadelphia standards, the neighborhood is sparsely populated, with a vaguely suburban quality: the homes have driveways, garages even, and the streets are broad.
The school, built in 1976, matches its environment, with huge ball fields and a sprawling main building that totals nearly 400,000 square feet.
For most Philadelphia neighborhoods, plummeting public school enrollment is a fact of life. In Northeast Philadelphia, however, there is a different problem altogether: too many students, and too few seats.
Overcrowding and a perceived lack of investment in Northeast schools, particularly the behemoth Northeast High, were the dominant topics yesterday evening as school district officials met with local parents, teachers and students as part of a series of meetings on the district's facilities master plan.
The old West Philadelphia High School at 48th and Walnut is a monument to a very different Philadelphia.
Erected in 1912, at the start of a massive westward residential expansion powered by the new Market Elevated Line, the school was a powerful symbol of Philadelphia’s robust growth and optimism.
Built in a simplified collegiate Gothic style, the school occupies a full city block. The exterior features leaded windows and fire towers that resemble turrets; inside there are marble staircases and ornate plasterwork.
It is a truly formidable structure, totaling over 250,000 square feet, with 97 classrooms and the capacity to hold 2,673 students.
But there are no students at all in the old West Philadelphia High any more.
District officials are genuinely listening to what the public has to say about their proposal to close nine schools, Deputy for Strategic Initiatives Danielle Floyd told the School Reform Commission on Friday.
Since announcing a package of 31 facilities recommendations last month, the District has so far hosted six community meetings. Already, said Floyd, public input gathered during the meetings has made a difference.
The tears fell freely at Julia de Burgos Elementary School Tuesday night.
During the fifth of 17 community meetings on the School District of Philadelphia’s facilities master plan, a flood of over 150 supporters of Sheppard Elementary implored District officials to reconsider their recommendation to close the tiny K-4 school in Kensington. Located just a few blocks away from de Burgos, Sheppard is one of nine schools the District has targeted for closure by 2014.