philadelphia school district

It's been closed for a decade

The W.S. Peirce School, located at 2400 Christian St., was built in 1928-29 and designed by Irwin T. Catharine in the Late Gothic Revival-style. Catharine, who wasn't the namesake for Catharine Street despite the spelling of his name, was the chief architect for Philadelphia public schools in the 1920s and 30s and designed dozens of schools now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, like Bok, Nebinger, Masterman, and Overbrook. The Peirce School is among those designed by Catharine listed on the National Register, yet for some reason it never made it onto the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.

Definitely apartments, maybe homes too

A little over a year ago, we told you to put in an offer on the former Walter Smith School building in Point Breeze, at the corner of 19th & Wharton. The school was part of a group of twenty shuttered schools being offered for sale by PIDC, and represented an interesting opportunity with the combination of a large reusable building and a sizable lot seemingly ready for development. By September, it was reported by Newsworks that the Concordia Group, a developer based in Maryland, was negotiating for the right to purchase Smith and several other former schools.

Smith School

South side of the parcel

Clearly, the sale has gone through. It has came to our attention that the developers, in partnership with HOW Properties, have pulled a zoning permit to convert the school building into apartments with 45 units and a roof deck. We hear they'll be rentals, and that they'll be market-rate units. We're pretty confident that this is a by-right development by the way.

Deadline is today

In recent weeks, we've profiled two shuttered Philadelphia schools which are currently available for sale through a cooperative effort with PIDC. Twenty schools are available in all, but we've chosen to only highlight the properties that we deem as the most interesting redevelopment candidates. As the deadline to submit a bid for one of these buildings is today, we figured we'd hurry up and profile one more school, for you multi-millionaire procrastinators out there.

William Penn High School

The former Bok School is an architectural gem, and the former Smith School is no slouch either. The same can't be said, though, for the former William Penn High School at Broad & Master, which was closed back in 2010. Based on the architecture, you might have guessed it was built in 1974. And you'd be right. What the building lacks in character, it makes up for in size.

Amazing ideas from local students

Almost three years ago, we wondered about the future of the former Peirce School, located at the corner of 24th & Christian. Quite a bit of time has passed, but the school looks exactly as it did back then, and it seems no closer to coming back into active use.

Former Peirce School

This past semester, a class at Philadelphia University was tasked with coming up with a creative way to reuse the building. Over the next few weeks, we'll be profiling some of the ideas that came out of that class, which are currently presented in poster form in the SOSNA office. Please keep in mind, these proposals are the efforts of individuals who were encouraged to stretch themselves architecturally and creatively, so it's extremely unlikely that any of them will ever be implemented. Still, as an academic exercise, it's very interesting to see how this building could be reused.

The first project turns the building into a massive rainwater collector by building a huge funnel into the side of the building. Most of the collected water from the sky in this application would be used for urban farming in and around the building. Other parts of the building would be used for retail, office space, and educational purposes. Check it out.

Seems pretty easy, no?

Last fall, Neighbors Investing in Childs Elementary (NICE), had a lovely block party at Childs, where dozens of community members learned about the group's efforts at the local school. Last week at Ignite Philly, two representatives from NICE gave an impassioned speech on how you too can help your neighborhood school. Somehow, a Buzzfeed post was created about it.

Sign for Childs

The speech had three specific recommendations:

1) Get to know someone in the building - build a relationship with a teacher or administrator so they don't think you're just creeping around the school

2) Check your intentions - have a plan for what you want to accomplish and be humble in your efforts

3) Don't make assumptions - ask the school what they need

The lowest hanging fruit comes in the form of schools supplies, especially printer paper. Do you have spare school supplies in your house? Extra reams of printer paper? If not, do you feel like buying any of those things and donating them to your local school? It seems like a safe bet that supplies of this ilk would be appreciated and go a long way toward helping the kiddies. But don't forget recommendation #3 - call first and see what they need. After all, each of your neighbors may have already donated a box of printer paper today.

Don't know your local school? Click here to find out.

Steps in the right direction

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.

Kearny School

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.

West Philly High

Last month, we told you about the likelihood that the old West Philly High School building would be converted into market-rate apartments by Strong Place Partners, a New York developer. At the time, we were unable to confirm the plan for 300 units and retail, as the sale of the building had not yet been finalized. At last night's meeting, the $6M sale was approved, setting the stage for this plan to become a reality.

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:

- Smith at 1900 Wharton St.

- Bok at 9th & Mifflin

- Vare at Moyamensing & Morris

- Wilson at 46th & Woodland

- University City at 36th & Filbert

- Robeson at 42nd & Ludlow

- Douglas at Huntington & Edgemont