Northwest Philly community fights to keep three ‘anchor institutions’ open in Germantown

The Philadelphia School District’s plan to close 29 schools at the end of this academic year has been a tough pill to swallow for residents in central Germantown.

Under the district’s Facilities Master Plan, Roosevelt Middle School, Fulton Elementary School and Germantown High School would close, a fact that has left many parents and community leaders scratching their heads.

Their number one question: where are students going to go to school in the neighborhood?

On Friday afternoon, residents voiced their concerns to members of the city’s School Reform Commission during the second of three hearings scheduled around the district’s program and building closure recommendations.

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Before a nearly empty room inside district headquarters on North Broad Street, they also made cases for keeping their schools open.

The SRC has the final say on all of the district’s right-sizing recommendations.

“If all three of these schools are shut down, the neighborhood would be deprived of anchor institutions that have stabilized the neighborhood over the years,” said Dr. Mary Laver with St. Vincent de Paul Church, which sits not far from Fulton. “The result would almost surely be a steep increase in criminal activity, including vandalism and violent crime.”

Laver urged the SRC to reconsider a counterproposal recently submitted to the district that would bring Fulton and Roosevelt students to Germantown’s East High Street building. Under the plan, Germantown would become a K-12 school.

The school currently utilizes about 30 percent of the property.

Vera Primus, president of Germantown’s alumni association, echoed Laver’s recommendation, saying that the school’s building is “sound…the condition is good.”

“Don’t destroy the young people, they deserve better,” she said. “Our students are not seats or dollars, they’re our future.”

Fellow alumni association board member, Hervolene Mitchell maintained that Germantown High has greatly improved over the past four years thanks, in large part, to the leadership of Principal Margaret Mullen-Bavwidinsi. The improved administrative stability, she said, helped take Germantown “from the grip of devastation.”

Between 1998 and 2008, the school had 10 different principals, according to Mitchell.

The potential impact of the closures may be factored into the SRC’s decision-making process.

Towards the end of Friday’s testimony on Northwest Philadelphia schools, Commissioner Wendell Pritchett asked whether the potential dearth of schools in central Germantown should be part of the SRC’s deliberations.

“I would say that it should be a factor in thinking this through, “Danielle Floyd, deputy chief of staff with the district, responded.

The third and final SRC hearing will take place Saturday at district headquarters between 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

The SRC will vote on all of the district’s recommendations March 7.

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