What the school district may have in store for NW Philly schools

A series of proposed changes to schools in Northwest Philadelphia has made its way out to the public.

The confidential School District document obtained by the Philadelphia Public School Notebook includes preliminary information on plans to close, relocate, consolidate and renovate schools in Northwest Philadelphia.

The 35-page document, dated March 18, is a draft report which identifies more than 20 schools as potential closure targets for next year. Two of those schools are in Roxborough. 

School closures and relocations

William Levering Elementary School on Ridge Avenue and Lankenau High School on Spring Lane are among those listed on the chopping block in Northwest Philadelphia.

The report cites a steady decline in Levering’s enrollment over the past 10 years as reason for the closure. If the option to close the school is approved, students would be reassigned to Cook Wissahickon Elementary School in Roxborough or Dobson Elementary School in Manayunk.

“It’s a pretty major school, [it has been] there for a hundred years or so,” said Bernard Guet, executive director of the Roxborough Development Corporation. “I’m sorry to lose that in the neighborhood.”

Guet says he has already received calls from parents who have expressed concern about the crowded classrooms at Cook Wissahickon and the fear that their children would not receive the appropriate attention from teachers, if the consolidation occurs.

“Obviously, the School District is trying to put as many students as they can in as few schools because of the budget; it’s a very bad situation,” he said.

But under the draft proposal, Levering would not be empty.

The documents suggests that AMY-Northwest Middle School and Parkway Northwest High School, both in Mt. Airy, could relocate to a renovated Levering building. Both schools are in leased facilities with contracts ending in June 2012. 

According to the report, the Lankenau High School building in Upper Roxborough would shut its doors and students would be relocated to Roxborough High School as a magnet program.

The report notes that Roxborough High School recently underwent a major renovation and would make better use of its increased space with the addition of Lankenau students. 

Lankenau’s originally scheduled plans for renovations and a gym addition would be canceled if the facility closes. 

The Edwin Fitler Academics Plus Elementary School, on Seymour and Knox Streets near Germantown, also faces closure. Under the District’s proposal, Fitler would close and relocate students to Thomas Mifflin Elementary School in East Falls. 

The consolidation would more than double Mifflin’s student body, increasing from 238 students to more than 500.

According to the report, more than half of the students who live within the Mifflin catchment do not attend the school. Instead, the report notes, “most are going to charter schools or schools in Roxborough/Manayunk.”

The report adds that Mifflin currently enrolls 60 students from outside its boundary, mostly from schools in North-Central area. If consolidated with Fitler, Mifflin would offer additional seats through a lottery process.

Calls to the principals at Levering, Lankenau and Fitler schools were not returned.

Consolidations, renovations and grade changes 

The report also makes mention of consolidation changes and grade configurations at schools throughout Northwest Philadelphia.

Under the District’s proposal, the Philadelphia Military Academy at Elverson and Philadelphia Military Academy at Leeds would combine into one program at one site. The location for the consolidated schools has not been determined. 

Proposed grade configurations at Theodore Roosevelt Middle School in Germantown would result in adding sixth grade and cause its feeder schools, Emlen, Fulton, Logan and Pennell to become K-5. 

According to the draft, Germantown High School would experience changes on a grander scale. The report notes that the building uses only 33-percent of its capacity, which calls for demolition of select sections of the building and would receive renovations to the original structure.

Walter B. Saul High School for Agricultural Sciences in Roxborough, the only agricultural school in the Philadelphia School District, is also included in the changes.

According to the report, the District would consider making renovations to facilities for the Career and Technical Education program.

As part of its facilities master planning process, the School District is trying to address declining numbers of school-age residents and an exodus of students to charters by “right sizing” the District and reducing empty seats in closed or underutilized school buildings. 

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