Students, alumni and parents gathered at Girard College in Philadelphia Friday afternoon to protest the plan to eliminate grades nine through 12 at the end of next year.
The protest completely blocked the entrance to the campus. Middle school-aged students shouted the school song, while older students held up yearbooks and signs that read, “Education cuts never heal.” Students and parents were joined in force by school staff and faculty members, teamsters and neighborhood residents. Passing motorists honked their horns to show support.
The proposal, announced last week by the Board of City Trusts, would transition the school from a boarding school to a day school for kindergarten through eighth grade, eliminating high school classes. The boarding program would be discontinued for all of the school’s 403 students.
Vivian Lewis’ son, Ian MacAllister, will start his junior year of high school at Girard College in the fall, the same school he has attended since the fourth grade. If the plan goes into effect, he will just miss the cut-off to be the last graduating high school class at Girard College.
“He wanted to graduate from Girard College,” Lewis said. “The mayor should be out here. If they wanted to sell the building to a contractor, the mayor would be out here.”
Seventeen-year-old Saniyyah Ricketts, however, would be among the last to receive a high school diploma from Girard College. “[It’s] sad,” she said, her eyes welling with tears.
The plan represents a cost-saving measure. Parents claim that school administrators told them the school’s endowment could last another 20 years at current operating costs. If the city’s Orphans Court approves the measure, it would also mean the loss of nearly 100 jobs.
“I get to see the kids graduate every year,” said Steven Stone, a residential adviser at the school, who would be among the possible layoffs. “I have kids that still call me today that graduated a year or two ago. Just to call and check up and to see what’s going on, because this is their home.”
Some teachers are concerned that an added cost would be a number of drop-outs. Scott Sowers, a physics teacher at the school, says the announcement comes too late for students to transfer schools for next year. Students who try to transfer will have a difficult time because they’ll be too old.
“I just wish we could give them a little bit more time to finish their high school education,” Sowers said. “If we can go with this model for 20 more years, we should at least give them another four, so they can finish high school the right way.”
Parents are trying to make their case to an Orphans Court judge to keep the school open long enough for all high school students to graduate. A hearing on the proposal had yet to be scheduled.