Northeast Times

Closing time

The city school dis­trict will con­sol­id­ate re­cre­ation­al use of school build­ings in an ef­fort to trim some of a $61 mil­lion budget de­fi­cit. Plans to cut hours im­me­di­ately have been post­poned un­til mid-March so that winter sports can com­plete their sea­sons.

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Re­cre­ation cen­ters throughout the City of Phil­adelphia faced a grim fate last week, when the Phil­adelphia School Dis­trict an­nounced it would be clos­ing their build­ings on week­ends and one hour earli­er dur­ing the week.

Luck­ily, their dev­ast­a­tion was short lived.

On Feb. 9, May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter an­nounced an agree­ment with the School Dis­trict to pre­serve winter sports and activ­it­ies, al­low­ing youth ath­letes the op­por­tun­ity to fin­ish their sea­son.

The city will con­sol­id­ate 83 school build­ings in­to 48 loc­a­tions for re­cre­ation pro­gram­ming and also agreed to pay $175,000 so the pro­grams can con­tin­ue to thrive. The 48 loc­a­tions will re­main open un­til 9 p.m. dur­ing the week as well as Sat­urdays through March 17.

The ad­di­tion­al time will al­low more than 12,000 youth ath­letes to fin­ish their sea­sons — which just last week, were in jeop­ardy of be­ing can­celled.

“That would have had a ma­jor af­fect, be­cause of how many teams we have and the pro­grams that play at those schools on nights and week­ends,” said Tor­res­dale Boys Club pres­id­ent Jim Hash­er. “Last week alone, we had 30 games at North­east High School, 30 at (George) Wash­ing­ton and 40 at (Ab­ra­ham) Lin­coln. The ef­fect it would have had on the Boys Club to re­lo­cate these teams would have been as­tro­nom­ic­al.”

The School Dis­trict’s ori­gin­al plans to close school build­ings at 8 p.m. on week­days and com­pletely on week­ends — ef­fect­ive al­most im­me­di­ately — was pro­jec­ted to save $2.8 mil­lion in staff and over­time costs. That es­tim­ate was later down­graded to $1.6 mil­lion.

However, now that the lim­ited hours won’t go in­to ef­fect un­til March 17 — al­low­ing winter sea­sons to be com­pleted — the Dis­trict is ex­pec­ted to save ap­prox­im­ately $1.2 mil­lion. The School Dis­trict must close a $61 mil­lion budget gap by June.

“Every­one pays taxes, so we’re pay­ing to sup­port these schools,” ex­plained Penn Academy Ath­let­ic As­so­ci­ation bas­ket­ball dir­ect­or Bob Hoff­man. “If they closed the build­ings, we would have to pay to rent a gym so these leagues can con­tin­ue to run. It puts a bur­den on every­one.”

Hoff­man has been Penn Academy’s bas­ket­ball dir­ect­or for 13 years, im­ple­ment­ing the sum­mer league, travel ball and an AAU league dur­ing that time. Es­tab­lished in 1960, Penn Academy now has more than 1,000 kids in­volved in its vari­ous pro­grams.

The winter bas­ket­ball pro­gram in­cludes two girl’s teams and five boys teams, who com­pete in four dif­fer­ent leagues — North­east Pea­nut League, De­part­ment of Re­cre­ation, North­east Sub­urb­an Ath­let­ic Con­fer­ence (NESAC) and the Lin­coln League.

“We have a lot of kids play­ing right now, and that’s just with­in one or­gan­iz­a­tion,” said Hoff­man. “Clubs will start fold­ing and that’s what will really hurt the kids.”

Re­cre­ation cen­ters throughout Phil­adelphia will have to en­dure these in­ev­it­able cuts on March 17, but the early clos­ures will not be nearly as lim­it­ing for spring sports like base­ball and soft­ball.

“The beauty of that is it is out­side. As long as the fields are main­tained and per­mits are giv­en out, we’ll be fine,” said Hash­er, who has spent the past 18 years with Tor­res­dale Boys Club. “We did have a big scare with bas­ket­ball. People were walk­ing around scratch­ing their heads. There was no fore­warn­ing. We were shocked.

“Will it be a prob­lem next year? Ab­so­lutely. It’ll be a tragedy. It’ll be a huge prob­lem,” he ad­ded. “We run sev­en days a week, so any kind of cut would hurt us tre­mend­ously. Our base­ball pro­gram alone has over 500 chil­dren.”

More than 12,000 chil­dren will now be able to com­plete their winter sea­sons, giv­ing par­ents and coaches throughout Phil­adelphia a sigh of re­lief.

“When you look at the vi­ol­ence in this city, es­pe­cially with kids, and to just close all this down and turn them onto the streets… that’s just ri­dicu­lous,” said May­fair Mon­arch’s sport dir­ect­or Dave Bau­man. “I’m broke. You’re broke. The City’s broke. It’s ri­dicu­lous when you think about it. It doesn’t mat­ter what these kids are do­ing, as long as it’s pro­duct­ive and keeps that out of trouble. That’s the most im­port­ant thing.” ••

Ed­it­or Melissa Yerkov can be reached at my­erkov@bsmphilly.com

Ex­ten­ded hours throughout North­east Phil­adelphia:

School  Sat­urday Hours of Op­er­a­tion

C.C.A. Baldi Middle School  9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Wat­son Comly School  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Steph­en Dec­atur School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Hamilton Dis­ston School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Henry Ed­munds School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Louis H. Far­rell School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Samuel Fels High School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

FitzPatrick School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Fox Chase Ele­ment­ary School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Anne Frank Ele­ment­ary School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Frank­ford High School 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

John Han­cock School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Thomas Holme School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Gen­er­al Harry LaB­rum Middle School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wil­li­am Loes­che Ele­ment­ary School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

May­fair School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Aus­tin Mee­han Middle School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

North­east High School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Robert Pol­lock Ele­ment­ary School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Rhawn­hurst Ele­ment­ary School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sol­is-Co­hen So­lomon School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

James Sul­li­van School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

George Wash­ing­ton High School 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

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You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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