The Philadelphia School District will add 2,272 seats across 19 high-performing traditional public schools beginning next September, officials announced Tuesday.
“This lets the city of Philadelphia know that the District is investing in the growth of high quality, high-performing school options,” said Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon.
A total of 1,802 seats will be added in 11 high schools, all of which are either special admission or citywide admission schools. Another 470 seats will be added in six elementary and two middle schools. All of the schools are highly rated, with scores of no less than 3 on the District’s 10-point School Performance Index (SPI) scale.
Under the District’s plan, the Philadelphia High School for Girls will experience the single largest expansion, adding 334 students.
“We are more than ready for the challenge,” said Girls High Principal Parthenia Moore, who hosted Tuesday’s announcement.
“The rigor that we have at our school will not be watered down in any way, shape, or form.”
E.M. Stanton Elementary, recently spared from closure after a vigorous advocacy effort by parents and supporters, will add 60 students. AMY Northwest, a special admission middle school, and Middle Years Academy, a citywide admission middle school, will both add 100 students.
Nixon said the cash-strapped District expects the expansion to be revenue neutral, but exact costs won’t be known until next year’s school enrollments are finalized in October.
Because school budgets are tied to student enrollment, the 19 schools slated for expansion will receive additional resources. Girls High, for example, could add as many as 15 new teachers, Moore said.
Admissions criteria will not change at the involved special admission and citywide admission schools, whose processes for selecting and enrolling new students will remain the same. For next year, involved schools will seek to pull extra students from their current crop of applicants, although Nixon said the application process could be opened back up if necessary.
The elementary school seats will be made available first through the District’s No Child Left Behind School Choice Program. The program gives parents of children attending schools in a school improvement status the option to apply to transfer their child to a school that has not been identified as needing improvement. Parents of students that qualify for the NCLB School Choice program will be notified directly by mail.
“The commitment is to make sure we fill every seat,” she said.
Nixon said she has been pushing for months to make Tuesday’s announcement a reality. The idea began in response to the District’s facilities master plan, through which officials hope to shed 40,000 “excess seats.” It gained steam with the School Reform Commission’s participation in the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact, which has set a goal of replacing or transforming 50,000 “low-performing seats” over the next five years.
“The [SRC] is clear that we want to focus on quality,” said Nixon. “This is just one of the steps.”
By comparison, the latest round of the District’s Renaissance Schools Initiative calls for shifting roughly 3,000 seats in low-performing traditional public schools over to outside management through conversion to charters.
Both the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Philadelphia School Partnership have recently given money to support the expansion of high-quality school options in Philadelphia, with more funds possible in the near future.
But Nixon said there was no external funding to support Tuesday’s announcement.
“This is a District initiative,” she stressed.
Schools that will add seats:
Elementary and middle schools
Amy Northwest (100 seats)
Middle Years Academy (100)
E.M. Stanton (60)
Fox Chase (30)
Girls High (334 seats)
Randolph Skills Center (300)
Philadelphia Military Academy @ Leeds (265)
Parkway Center City (152)
Academy at Palumbo (111)
Arts Academy at Rush (98)
Carver High School for Engineering & Science (88)