Girard College to become day school, dropping grades 9-12

Since 1848 Girard College in Philadelphia has been a home for orphans, not just a school. Starting in September of next year, that will change, at least temporarily. 

Girard College has been operating as a first-through-12th grade boarding school since its inception, but the economic downturn chopped one third off the endowment that funds the school, forcing changes.  

Bernard Smalley, a vice president with the Board of City Trusts, which oversees the Girard endowment, says it’s asking Philadelphia’s Orphans Court for permission to become a day school.

“We be allowed to reconfigure the school from it’s current situation where we are 1-12 residential educational institution to a to a 1-8 non-residential educational situation on a temporary basis,” Smalley said.

Joe Martz, executive director of the Board of City Trusts, says the trust has only partially bounced back from the beating it took in 2008.

“Even though we are not broke and the estate has considerable revenue-generating assets, it cannot generate enough income to continue funding the school at its current level of spending and what it projects the school to need in the future,” said Martz.

The changes translate into about 100 layoffs. While the school was founded to educate orphans, it has evolved to serve children from single-parent homes.

Jared Friedman is a representative from the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 40 teachers at the school.

“They are just wonderful, wonderful children and Stephen Girard did not set out to make orphans orphans again, and that’s the way we are looking at this now,” said Friedman.

Daniel Knittel, who graduated from Girard in 1994, says he’s disappointed it will become a day school.

“I feel bad for the current students who are going here that aren’t going to receive what I got from this school, a great education and a safe place to live,” he said.

The goal is to scale back to a day school for now. Once the trust is healthier, the hope is to once again become a boarding school. It’s unclear how long it will take.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.