Vera Primus’ eyes said it all. Her words added an exclamation point.
“I’m just floored,” said a teary Primus, Germantown High School’s alumni association president on Thursday night after learning that her alma mater would close at school-year’s end. “They don’t care nothing about these kids.”
Citing declining enrollment and low academic performance, the School District of Philadelphia announced in mid-December that it wanted to close the nearly century-old institution as part of its Facilities Master Plan, an effort, aimed, in part, at addressing an ongoing budget crisis.
At the time, a total of 37 schools were on the chopping block. Following reivisions by the district, the city’s School Reform Commission voted on 27 closures Thursday, ultimately saving four schools.
On Thursday, after an excruciating day of protests and pleas for mercy, the SRC voted to close 23 city schools and merge or relocate five others.
Four schools — T.M. Peirce and Bayard Taylor elementary schools, Roosevelt Middle, and Paul Robeson High — were spared. GHS was not. The commission voted 4-1 to close it.
Primus was perhaps the most vocal leader during a months-long effort to keep Germantown open, helming meetings and helping to organize several rallies.
The end result of that effort wasn’t easy to swallow.
She wasn’t alone.
“It’s disheartening,” said state Rep. Stephen Kinsey (D-Philadelphia), a GHS Class of 1976 graduate who testified Thursday.
Back to the drawing board
The Germantown alum, along with Primus and others from the school’s community, proposed that the district transform Germantown into a K-12 school so that it could house students from nearby Fulton Elementary and Roosevelt Middle School, which were also recommended for closure.
The SRC voted Thursday to close Fulton, but keep Roosevelt open.
Commissioner Wendell Pritchett asked Philadelphia schools Superintendent William Hite and his team to explore using Roosevelt’s building as a site for students from all over central Germantown.
“I have concluded that Roosevelt Middle School is the best in the area,” Pritchett said.
Kinsey viewed Pritchett’s suggestion as a small victory.
“Now we have to go to the drawing board,” said Kinsey. “We have to work with the district and find out the logistics in regards to space utilization at Roosevelt. If our coalition doesn’t think that it’s appropriate in regards to the space, then we’ll come back and make a plea to the district in regards to looking at Germantown again.”
Bass: Constituents were ‘disrespected’
Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, whose district includes Germantown, had a harder time accepting the news, telling a reporter that she wanted to curse.
“I am flabbergasted, I’m disgusted, I’m very disappointed, I feel disrespected on behalf of my constituents,” said Bass, who renewed her call for a one-year school closings moratorium during her testimony. “I don’t believe that there was enough information that was provided and it was shown over and over again during the course of the vote.”
In addition to the closings, the SRC also approved three program relocations, including Parkway Northwest High School in Mount Airy.
The program, which has leased space at New Covenant Church of Philadelphia’s campus on Germantown Avenue, will co-locate at Leeds Middle School in Cedarbrook.
The district’s two military academies, Leeds and Elverson, will merge at Elverson’s North Philadelphia building.
NewsWorks will have reaction from Northwest Philadelphia to the SRC vote on Friday.