The Save Smith School Committee held a news conference in the Point Breeze section of South Philadelphia in October calling for the School Reform Commission to stop the sale of now-closed Walter G. Smith School and reopen it for children in the community.
State Sen. Anthony Williams, State Rep. Jordan Harris, City Councilwoman Helen Gym, and City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson joined the committee and other members of the community in front of the former elementary school at 19th and Wharton Streets.
“We’ve got to save our children and save our Smith School because it is important that we have a community and not a community of houses,” said Point Breeze resident Betty Buford. “Without our school, the community is dead.”
The District’s sale of the school, along with four others, to a developer was halted after Councilman Johnson and community member Claudia Sherrod objected to the sale in October 2015 and the Court of Common Pleas rejected the transaction. The District filed for an appeal in February 2016 with Commonwealth Court, and the fate of the school still hangs in the balance.
The Save Smith School Committee and the residents of Point Breeze are concerned that the SRC and the District are prioritizing private development over the interest of the community’s children.
Their concern is part of the larger issue of Point Breeze’s gentrification within the last 10 years. The influx of young affluent professionals continues to attract developers looking to make a profit.
“Nobody here is a fool,” said Williams. “This issue of closing schools is related to moving people out and moving other types of people in.”