What is it that motivates, or fails to motivate, an adolescent to learn? Both the Pennsylvania School Board and Abraham Lincoln High School, located on Ryan and Rowland avenues, opted to explore a possible answer to this question by completely restructuring the 60-year-old building.
According to project manager JCMS Inc., the renovation waves a price tag of $70 million on the recently finished construction of the new school building in September 2009.
“It speaks to a building that was tired and in need of replacement, but we’re not alone,” Thomas J. Dougherty, assistant principal of Lincoln, reflects. “I can’t really point my finger on how or why Lincoln got chosen. I’ve been to schools before that to this day remain in the ‘20s.”
While Dougherty cannot provide a singular reason for the ambitious project, he mentions that asbestos within the aged building was a prime motive. Issues like truancy and student violence were prevalent within the old building, but no longer, Dougherty said.
“The number of infractions have decreased enormously in all levels, be it student assault or it be assault on an employee. Even cutting, for that matter, has decreased,” Dougherty continued.
Demolition still continues with plans to convert the building’s original acreage into sports fields by this September. Both the raucous demolition and the fresh, orderly building are believed to have had a visible effect on student morale.
“The young folks will hold the door. In the past that didn’t mean a whole lot, but it is significant,” Dougherty said. “It says something to me of the respect for their peers and other adults to go that distance.”
The innovative building has a wing dedicated to ninth grade classes, a group that suffers from immense dropout rates across the nation, according to English Department Head Rayna Goldfarb. However, as Goldfarb points out, it takes more than a new building to transform the way that high school students approach education.
“It’s the transition from middle school to high school where kids have to function independently; they have more autonomy and they’re profoundly immature,” Goldfarb stated without doubt.
As Dougherty said, there are mixed feelings among those who knew the outdated building regarding the renovations. The demolition has proved to be a minor disruption to students who occasionally can hear the clamor, as well as feel the vibrations, of the former building as it falls, Goldfarb said.
With everything from several Mac computer labs to a state-of-the-art health education classroom available to Lincoln’s students, school officials hope to deter the small number of students who still wander in and out of the building.
“What is it within a child that makes them want to do better and some kids just sort of get swept away?” Goldfarb puzzled. “I don’t know, and this building cannot fix that.”
Joe Osborne is a student in Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods class — a journalism program designed to encourage students to cover under-reported neighborhoods. Joe is a Northeast native.