Northwest Philly neighborhood schools invite real estate agents inside hallways, classrooms

Warm smiles and decorated hallways were a welcome surprise to real estate agents who expected a much different picture on a tour of neighborhood schools Wednesday afternoon. 

“This exceeded my expectations,” said one real estate agent.

The Mt. Airy Schools Coalition and Elfant Wissahickon Relators organized a public school tour in an effort to show local real estate agents that public schools can be a solid option for many families looking to move to the area despite the School District of Philadelphia’s ongoing budget crisis. 

While selling a home in Northwest Philadelphia isn’t particularly difficult, convincing a potential buyer that the neighborhood schools are not severely distressed can be a hard sell.

The tour was designed to help equip local agents, some of whom had never been inside a local public school, to combat that perception. 

In its second year, the tour stopped at Emlen Elementary, Lingelbach Elementary, C.W. Henry Elementary, Houston Elementary and J.S. Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences.

Along the way, Emlen boasted of its brand new computer lab, Houston showed off its a recording studio, and Principal Fatima Rogers enthusiastically shared that C.W. Henry offers a variety of sports including volleyball and dragon boating.

Katey McGrath is operations director for Elfant Wissahickon and a parent of two J.S. Jenks children. She helped coordiate the tour. 

“Last year everyone was shocked,” McGrath said. “People were really surprised at what they saw. That the kids had classes like science. A lot of people don’t think public schools offer classes like music and science or art anymore.”

Guests were welcomed by smiling students, staff and parents at every school.

Parent tour guide Lynda O’Leary fielded questions about class size at Henry when asked if there were really 30 students to one teacher in a kindergarten class.

At Lingelbach, Principal Marc Gosselin shared that the school is at 94 percent capacity. Lingelbach also started the school year with a $160 discretionary spending budget. The school was later the beneficiary of a sizeable donation from a local anonymous donor that’s helping them make it through the year.

“The budget in particular is a really scary thing,” said Abby Thaker of community development corporation Mt. Airy USA. “But people don’t realize that these schools are still able to make things happen.”

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