Students mark milestones, adjust to changes at Henry School

Morning rain made for a soggy start to the new school year in Philadelphia. But public school students in Mt. Airy didn’t let Mother Nature put a damper on the excitement of a new beginning with old friends.

At the K-8 Charles W. Henry School on Carpenter Lane, students were chatting, laughing and hugging one another under umbrellas. Some arrived at the Greene Street building nearly an hour before the first bell rang to swap summer stories and classroom assignments.

The school yard was also dotted with a few parents who were doing some catching up of their own as they ushered their children toward the front door.

Jennifer Gantt watched nervously as her daughter Lauren headed to her first day of fourth grade. “This is her first year upstairs to change rooms and lockers and all the big girl stuff,” she said.

Stessa Cohen looked on as her son Erez crossed the school’s lower school yard. The Mt. Airy resident said she’s excited about the new school year. She said her son is growing up.

“He packed half of his own lunch,” said Cohen. “It’s a milestone.”

But Tuesday wasn’t all about pleasantries.  The day also marked the start of a school year in which students and staff will have to face a series of budget cuts that were made to help the School District close a $629 million budget gap.

Like many public schools across the city, Henry was forced to eliminate some staff. The school lost two special education teachers and a noontime aide.

The art teacher will also only be on-site three days a week instead of five. The school nurse will only be available three days a week as well.

The school also eliminated the Dean of Students position. That individual, however, will stay on as a teacher.

Janet Scannell, a member of Henry’s parent-teacher association, said the key will be to work on making do without harming the student’s experience.

“They’re aware of it, but I don’t want it to be their focus,” said Scannell.

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