A bittersweet send-off for Levering’s last batch of students

By mid-afternoon on Thursday, the vast, concrete schoolyard alongside William Levering Elementary’s hulking Ridge Avenue building was all but empty. Save for a few stragglers by the basketball court.

Only a half-hour or so earlier, every member of the student body of the historic K-8 school – all 184 of them – filled it, gathering in a giant circle to blow bubbles into the afternoon breeze.

It was a wistful and seemingly appropriate end-of-the-year ceremony for a school whose students and staff will all scatter to new locations come September.

This academic year was Levering’s last.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“It’s very sad. All the staff thought we were going to retire together,” said Beth Trimber, who has taught at Levering for the past 13 years.

Citing declining enrollment and a lack of students from the school’s catchment area, the School District of Philadelphia recommended in November that Levering close as part of its Facilities Master Plan, an effort aimed, in part, at addressing ongoing budget woes.

Two independent counter proposals aimed at keeping students at Levering were proposed, but never stuck.

In late March, the five members of the city’s School Reform Commission, who had the final say in the fate of Levering and seven other schools, unanimously voted to accept the district’s suggestion.

AMY Northwest, a special admission 6-8 middle school, will move into Levering’s four-story building as a result of that decision.

Levering students will largely be sprinkled elsewhere; well over half will head to a quartet of nearby elementary schools. Around 15 will attend AMY Northwest.

‘I wanted to graduate here’

Ayana Preston, a seventh grader, will head to Cook-Wissahickon Elementary, much to her and her mother’s disappointment.

“I wanted to graduate here,” said Preston, who started at Levering in kindergarten.

Preston’s mother, Tara Broughton, naturally wanted the same for her daughter. She attended Levering herself from fifth through eighth grade.

“You’re going to make me cry,” she said shortly after she was approached by a reporter.

A large number of Levering students will attend either Cook-Wissahickon or James Dobson Elementary in Manayunk.

Outside of the school’s main entrance, Melissa Curley watched as her daughter’s first grade teacher hugged and high-fived departing students on the steps.

The young mother said she’s upset the same type of scene won’t play out next year. And, though, she’s optimistic about sending her daughter to Cook-Wissahickon, she’ll miss the tight bond she formed with Levering’s staff.

“I wish we had a couple more years to spend with them,” said Curley. “It still doesn’t feel the same.”

A principal’s daily reminder of her time at Levering

First-year Principal Gina Steiner, who was hired to help close the school, will lead Joseph Leidy Elementary next year, a K-8 school in West Philadelphia.

Though she only spent a short time in Roxborough, Steiner said she meshed well with the neighborhood school.

“I was meant to be here,” said Steiner inside an office full of boxes. “It just seemed to be the right place.”

A small part of her new assignment, though, will serve as a daily reminder.

Steiner will use the same exit off of the Schuylkill Expressway on her way to Leidy as she did for Levering. She’ll hang a right on Belmont Avenue instead of a right on Green Lane.

“It’s going to make me think of Levering every day,” she said.

For now, Steiner still has a lot of work left. She’ll finish packing up the boxes and will soon send student records to their new schools. 

She’ll be back and forth to tie up loose ends throughout the weekend and through Tuesday, the final day for staff and the final day in Levering’s 260-plus-year history. 

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

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

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal