The transition is now officially complete.
After more than five months of intense logistical and physical preparation, students and staff at AMY Northwest Middle School can finally call 6000 Ridge Avenue home.
The city’s public school year, AMY’s first in Roxborough, kicked-off on Friday.
The half-day was both emotional and energy-boosting for Principal Marco Zanoni. The school district veteran devoted most of his waking hours to orchestrating the school’s move from nearby East Mount Airy.
“When I walked into the auditorium, I said, ‘I hope I don’t choke up’ [when I address the students for the first time],” said Zanoni shortly before the district’s annual bell-ringing ceremony got underway.
The tradition symbolically ushers in the new academic year for all Philadelphia School District students.
At AMY, some of those students are former William Levering Elementary enrollees.
Students in transition
In late March, the city’s School Reform Commission unanimously voted to close the historical school which occupied the same building that AMY Northwest is now in.
Citing decreased enrollment and a lack of students from the school’s catchment area, district officials recommended in November that Levering be shuttered as part of its Facilities Master Plan, a right-sizing effort aimed, in part, at addressing ongoing budget woes.
The decision forced Levering families to find new schools for their children, a fact that still upsets new AMY parent John Kahn.
The Roxborough resident had three children who attended Levering. He said he simply doesn’t understand why the district chose to close a school offering nine grades of education (K-8) so one with three (6-8) could move in.
“It should have been left alone,” said Kahn.
The SRC’s vote also meant, though, that more students could attend AMY, the district’s non-fiscal goal.
The special admissions school was previously housed inside a one floor, “L”-shaped building on the campus of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. AMY’s new location, its seventh in about 30 years, is a hulking four-story property.
Following the SRC’s decision, student applications began pouring across Zanoni’s desk. Heading into the 2012-2013 school year, AMY has around 310 students on the books, about 100 more than last year.
High hopes and excitement
Mount Airy resident Akira Harris-Watson, a seventh grader, is among those who was donning the school’s pale blue uniform shirt for the first time on Friday.
“I feel confident that it’s going to be a good year for me,” said the former McCloskey Elementary School student after Friday’s ceremony.
Her mother, Kelcey Harris, is equally optimistic. Her daughter riding two SEPTA buses to and from school for the first time has so far been the only thing remotely nerve-wracking about the change.
“I’m excited for her,” said Harris as she stood inside the schoolyard. “It’s a new experience for me as well as her.”
Prinicpal Zanoni, for his part, thinks the school’s new experience in its new building and neighborhood will be nothing but positive. “I think it’s going to be our best year,” he said.