Teachers join school-closings ‘Walk In My Shoes’ protest at Fulton Elementary

Fran Hoffman didn’t mince words Tuesday afternoon while discussing the collective mood inside Robert Fulton Elementary’s East Germantown building.

“We’re a little defeated,” he said. “We’re taking a collective punch in the gut.”

Hoffman, who teaches sixth grade, nonetheless grabbed a picket sign and joined about a dozen teachers from Fulton and beyond for a mile-plus long rally aimed at keeping the school open next year.

Pride in his job and the students keep him going, he said.

On the chopping block

As part of its Facilities Master Plan, the School District of Philadelphia has recommended that 29 schools close at the end of this academic year, including Fulton, Germantown High School and Roosevelt Middle School in central Germantown.

If approved, Fulton students will have the option of transferring to Emlen Elementary in Mount Airy, Wister Elementary in Germantown or Leeds Middle School in Cedarbrook.

On Tuesday, protestors made their way to Emlen during the third and final “Walk in My Shoes” march, an event organized by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to bring attention to the distance students may have to travel to go to school if the district’s recommendations are given the green light.

The march

As the group stood outside of Emlen’s building on Chew Avenue, Hoffman said Germantown wouldn’t be the same without Fulton.

“It’s like a missing store in a mall,” he said. “It just looks depressing, it saddens people and it takes away some of the community feel. All kids should have a neighborhood school. It’s a right, in my opinion.”

Fellow Fulton teacher Christine Palermo was equally concerned about the impact Fulton closing could have on the neighborhood.

“Abandoned buildings are the last thing we need in Germantown,” said Palermo as a car let out a supportive honk on Haines Street. “You’re trying to revive an area … and then you’re making this big area with nothing. How are you going to bring people into the Germantown area?”

But Palermo, a Head Start instructor, is also worried about the nearly 40 students her program teaches.

If the school closes, families will likely have to rely on daycare programs, which, she said, can’t offer the same level of education.

The SRC is scheduled to vote on the district’s right-sizing recommendations March 7.

Jerry Jordan, president of PFT, said his organization is optimistic that the SRC will consider his organization’s message before voting.

“We always have a tremendous amount of hope that we’re going to make things better for children,” said Jordan.

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