Northeast Times

Carroll High’s closure like ‘a dark cloud’ to students

The Port Rich­mond high school is just one of three schools that will close in the River Wards. Two Fishtown schools will stay open, but will be af­fected by grade changes and an in­flux of new stu­dents.

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Charles Car­roll High School fresh­man Larry Scruggs said that last Fri­day, it felt like a dark cloud had fallen on top of the school he’s only at­ten­ded for less than a year — a short time, to be sure, but still enough to be­come part of a school en­vir­on­ment he likened to “a fam­ily.”

Un­for­tu­nately for Scruggs and his class­mates, on Fri­day, Port Rich­mond’s Car­roll High be­came one of the three River Wards schools that are part of the largest mass pub­lic school clos­ure in Phil­adelphia his­tory.

Now, stu­dents, par­ents and com­munity lead­ers alike have spoken out about the shut­ter­ing of Car­roll, 2700 E. Au­burn St., Douglas High School, 2700 E. Hunt­ing­don St., and Sherid­an West Academy, 3701 Frank­ford Ave.

“I just wish they could have giv­en us one year more,” Scruggs, of Kens­ing­ton, said Monday. “They [stu­dents] know they won’t see the same people next year at dif­fer­ent schools.”

Scruggs said that the at­mo­sphere in Car­roll last Fri­day and Monday was a sad one, but stu­dents are simply get­ting used to the news and de­cid­ing where they’ll at­tend school next. He said he’d trans­ition next year to Nueva Es­per­anza Academy Charter School in Hunt­ing Park.

Two ad­di­tion­al River Wards schools will not close, but will be af­fected by the SRC’s re­com­men­ded changes and grade re­as­sign­ments — stu­dents from Sherid­an West Academy will be re­as­signed to Penn Treaty Middle School, 600 E. Thompson St., and be­gin­ning in Septem­ber, Penn Treaty will ex­pand to in­clude grades 9 through 12, and will also be­come a re­as­sign­ment op­tion for Car­roll and Douglas stu­dents.

Hack­ett Ele­ment­ary School, 2161 E. York St., will not close, but will lose stu­dents in grades 5 and 6, who will also trans­fer to Penn Treaty Middle School.

With­in the pub­lic school dis­trict, stu­dents from Car­roll and Douglas will now have the op­tion of trans­fer­ring to Kens­ing­ton Busi­ness School, Kens­ing­ton Urb­an Edu­ca­tion Academy, Kens­ing­ton Health Sci­ences, or Mast­baum AVTS High School.

Emo­tions ran high lead­ing up to the Thursday SRC vote —19 people, in­clud­ing Amer­ic­an Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers pres­id­ent Randi Weingarten, were ar­res­ted when they tried to block SRC mem­bers’ en­trance in­to the meet­ing, at 440 N. Broad St.

The SRC did vote to keep four schools open. The schools that were saved are: T.M. Peirce Ele­ment­ary in North Phil­adelphia, Roosevelt Middle in East Ger­man­town, Taylor Ele­ment­ary in Hunt­ing Park and Paul Robe­son High in West Phil­adelphia.

Last Thursday, about 75 stu­dents at Charles Car­roll High School in Port Rich­mond pro­tested the po­ten­tial clos­ing of their school. City Coun­cil­man Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.) also at­ten­ded that rally in sup­port. Car­roll stu­dents in par­tic­u­lar had been very act­ive in fight­ing to keep the school open, along with rep­res­ent­at­ives from the edu­ca­tion ad­vocacy group, Youth United for Change.

Claire Gal­pern, youth or­gan­izer for YUC, who has been spend­ing time at Car­roll, said Fri­day at the school was “a sad day for sure.”

One stu­dent, fresh­man Zach Kaufmann, had spoken at a meet­ing of the School Re­form Com­mis­sion on Feb. 21. While he could not be reached by Star by press time, he told the As­so­ci­ated Press Fri­day, “I’ve really done a lot to show them [the SRC] how much I love Car­roll. I guess it didn’t really get through to them.”

Some com­munity group lead­ers spoke of how school clos­ures might af­fect the neigh­bor­hoods they rep­res­ent.

“I think that while the de­cisions made by the SRC make sense fin­an­cially…chan­ging schools is a dif­fi­cult trans­ition, and wor­ries about pos­sible class over­crowding are val­id,” said Kate Mick­low, pres­id­ent of the Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation.

Sam How­ell, prin­cip­al of Penn Treaty Middle School, said Monday that while a lot of changes have to be made at Penn Treaty un­der the SRC’s re­com­mend­a­tion, “everything is still in the earli­est stages.”

“The FNA en­cour­ages our res­id­ents and neigh­bors to sup­port the stu­dents we’ll en­counter in our midst in the aca­dem­ic years ahead, as well oth­er groups that can of­fer ad­di­tion­al sup­port, such as Rock to the Fu­ture, and the Big Broth­ers and Big Sis­ters Or­gan­iz­a­tions,” Mick­low con­tin­ued.

Jorge Santana, co-founder of the par­ents’ edu­ca­tion ad­vocacy group New Kens­ing­ton Par­ents, which fo­cuses on ZIP Code 19125, said the group is con­cerned about over-pop­u­la­tion at Penn Treaty Middle School, and about the tak­ing away of the 5th and 6th grades from Hor­a­tio Hack­ett Ele­ment­ary.

“We’re still try­ing to sort out why they are mov­ing the grade con­fig­ur­a­tion around at Hack­ett,” Santana said in an e-mail mes­sage. “If any­thing, they should be ex­pand­ing Hack­ett to 8th grade and giv­ing the school more money to ac­cel­er­ate its gains.”

Marla Marko, vice pres­id­ent of the Old Rich­mond Civic As­so­ci­ation – Douglas High is loc­ated with­in ORCA’s bound­ar­ies — said she wasn’t sure of the im­pact Douglas’ clos­ure would have, but spoke of the neg­at­ive ef­fects of the 2011 clos­ure of St. Anne’s Par­ish School.

“Kids be­ing dis­placed, friends be­ing sep­ar­ated, teach­ers los­ing their jobs,” she said. “That was a dis­grace.”

Many people have already raised con­cerns about sim­il­ar ef­fects in the pub­lic school sys­tem.

Some le­gis­lat­ors say that the school clos­ure fight isn’t over, however, even as Su­per­in­tend­ent Wil­li­am R. Hite Jr. told The Phil­adelphia In­quirer Fri­day, “Now, we im­me­di­ately trans­ition to school open­ing.”

City Coun­cil­wo­man Jan­nie Black­well (D-3rd dist.), who heads the edu­ca­tion com­mit­tee, said the op­tion of leg­al ac­tion to stop the clos­ings is be­ing dis­cussed.

“It’s not over yet,” agreed Theresa Cos­tello of the Port Rich­mond Com­munity Group. “Maybe a fed­er­al law­suit is ne­ces­sary.”

For now, it seems River Wards stu­dents are merely ac­cept­ing and learn­ing to cope with the news that their schools will soon no longer be the places they call home nearly eight hours per day.

“It’s not the same any­more now I know the school I’ve been at for three years is clos­ing,” said Yas­mine Bouie, a ju­ni­or at Car­roll. “It’s a fam­ily there.”

Bouie said she’s not sure where she will choose to at­tend school next year.

Scruggs shared the sen­ti­ment about the at­mo­sphere at Car­roll.

“It’s a safe en­vir­on­ment, it’s a small school, good teach­ers,” he said. “They care.”

Man­aging Ed­it­or Mi­kala Jam­is­on can be reached at 215-354-3113 or at mjam­is­on@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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