The last few years have been rough ones for the Philadelphia School District, with budget shortfalls, layoffs, and school closings. One would think that the District would be aggressively working to sell shuttered schools in an effort to fill some of the gap in their budget, but that process to this point has been, let's say, measured. We still think they should have considered the $100M ofer for all the closed schools from Municipal Acquisitions, but that ship has sailed. Still, an Inquirer report earlier this week informed us that some schools are finally going to be sold, with plans for two to be redeveloped.
While the Philadelphia Public School system is in shambles, there is at least some positive news for the Kearney School. Located at 601 Fairmount Ave., the school was established in 1921, according to Philaplace, and named for Civil War general Phillip P. Kearney. In its early years it served to educate the children of the many Jewish immigrants who lived along Marshall Street. In more recent years, space constraints at the school were becoming an issue.
Almost a year ago, we first told you about plans for an expansion to the school, including a new multi-purpose room that doubles as a gym and four new classrooms with lab space. At that time, the addition was all but a collection of masonry and construction materials. But thankfully, it was completed in time for the beginning of the school year.
One way development and improvement projects are incubated at public institutions in a city facing a stressed budget, is through workshops organized by smaller organizations who connect the necessary professionals to the communities in need.
The goal is for the project to go from the whiteboard to the parcel, so to speak. That’s what’s happening at the Henry C. Lea School, located at 4700 Locust St. in West Philly. In May, we wrote about a design charrette hosted by the Community Design Collaborative. The goal of that charrette was to generate community ideas about how to green the schoolyard at Lea, now a lake of concrete.
As you are probably well aware, our school district has been dealing with severe financial issues for the past few years. One way that they are attempting to make up for budget shortfalls is by (slowly) selling off vacated school buildings. We've been covering this intermittently over the last year, and today we have an update. An eagle-eyed reader was kind enough to share the news that the sale of three buildings was approved at last night's SRC meeting, after a few hours of testimony from people upset about more school closings.
Today, at 2pm, new school superintendent Dr. William Hite held a press conference detailing a list of 37 Philadelphia Public Schools that he will recommend to close their doors for good at the end of the current school year. These recommended closures are due to aging facilities and huge under-enrollment numbers in numerous District schools. It's certain that many schools will have active and vocal community members fighting to keep them open, but it's more than likely that most of the schools recommended for closure will indeed shut down in June.
Map of schools on the list. Image from the Notebook.
As you can see, many of the schools on the list are located in North Philadelphia, with other schools scattered among other neighborhoods farther out from Center City. Of interest to us today are the schools a little closer in to Center City, among them:
It appears we could be seeing redevelopment at the old West Philadelphia High School very soon.
A bid from New York-based Strong Place Partners (SPP) to purchase and renovate the building at 4700 Walnut St. into a mixed-use development featuring studio apartments and lofts aimed at graduate and junior faculty at nearby universities will have to be voted on by its School Reform Commission (SRC) before any further action can occur.
The school district is working towards including the item on its December 20 Action Committee meeting, according to spokesperson Dierdre Darragh.
A reader checked in recently, wondering about a fenced-in area on the south side of the 600 block of Brown Street. And to be honest, we'd wondered about it too! The other day, the fence was pulled back and we were able to snap a couple of photos of the work that's been taking place on this site for months.
We did a little digging around and determined that this is not some independent construction project, but instead an addition to the Philip Kearny School, located at 601 Fairmount Ave.
The Philly school system has been underfunded for years. In Queen Village, neighbors are parlaying the power of organizing and civic groups to provide 30 students access to summer school they need but would have been refused due to cuts in the Philadelphia School District (PSD) budget. This year, citywide summer school programs have been cut to bridge programs for students entering high school and seniors who need one or two more credits to graduate.
Panek said he talked with developers at Matzi Builder and Developer a few months ago. At the time, the developers expressed that their interests lie in converting the (not so attractive) structure into an apartment building. But Panek urged the developer, who he said has a good reputation and has done other work in Center City, to consider townhomes instead.