At Carver High School, Philly district growth continues despite funding crisis

 Carver High School of Engineering and Science plans to add seventh and eighth grades at the beginning of next year. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Carver High School of Engineering and Science plans to add seventh and eighth grades at the beginning of next year. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

In the face of its continuing budget crisis, the Philadelphia school district continues to show a willingness to invest in new options for its students.

 Carver High School of Engineering and Science, a STEM-minded magnet school in North Philadelphia, plans to add seventh and eighth grades at the beginning of next year.

“The hope is really to create much more of a pipeline of STEM education in Philadelphia,” said Carver principal Ted Domers.

The 120-student expansion is being supported by a $147,000 planning grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership.

The grant will allow the school to create a STEM coordinator position, give existing faculty the time and resources for additional professional development, and help facilitate partnerships with four district elementary schools: Chester A. Arthur, Southwark, Blaine and W.D. Kelley.

The latter two schools are currently undergoing “internal turnarounds” also facilitated, in part, by the Philadelphia School Partnership.

“It’s the opportunity to work with school leaders that I know are committed,” said Domers of the elementary schools. “Their schools’ vision is to really drive STEM education.” 

He hopes to work with these neighborhood elementary schools “in a way that magnet schools have not traditionally done.”

Application will be open to all Philadelphia students.

Domers says the expansion plan began when the district approached him about adding seats. He proposed adding the lower grades and then, after getting Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn’s blessing, he approached PSP for incubation support.

The grant will also allow staff at Carver to learn from other models. Domers specifically referenced visiting Cincinnati, where all public high schools stretch from grades seven through 12.

Carver, which received a score of 90.9 on the state’s school performance profile, serves a population that’s 52 percent economically disadvantaged, 2.7 percent English language learner and 2.8 percent special education.

“Carver is achieving well above both city and state averages in math and reading while serving a diverse student body,” said Jessica Pena, director of PSP’s Great Schools Fund in a release. “We see in Principal Domers a passionate leader who understands that teacher, community, parent and alumni involvement are pillars on which excellent schools are built.”

The School Reform Commission has not yet formally accepted PSP’s donation; nor has it approved Carver’s grade expansion.

Both items will be voted on at the next SRC action meeting, scheduled for September 18.

A school district spokesman could not give specific numbers on how much the expansion would cost beyond the planning grant, but wrote: “The additional costs will be very limited.”

PSP will also donate $246,000 to Freire Charter schools to aid its student-data tracking.

With these endowments, PSP has now given more than $35.4 million to Philadelphia district, charter and private schools toward the creation of “better educational opportunities” for 15,883 Philadelphia students.

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