The School Reform Commission votes tomorrow on the potential closures of 29 city schools, including Carroll, Douglas High and Sheridan West Academy in the River Wards. On Thursday, Carroll students spoke up in support of their school.
Last Thursday, about 75 students at Charles Carroll High School in Port Richmond had a lot to say about their school’s inclusion in the largest mass school closing in Philadelphia history.
“Keep Carroll Open!”
“R.I.P. Philly’s Schools!”
These were statements on signs students had made at the early-morning rally outside Carroll, 2700 E. Auburn St., which was yet another student-led act of support for the school. Students have already made a video pleading with Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite to keep Carroll open.
Hite viewed that video Feb. 11, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“These people I go to the school with, they’re my family,” said one student in the video.
A teacher in the video spoke of the positive effects of working in a small school — Carroll has 342 students.
“I know almost every student in this building, and I’ve been here less than a year,” the teacher said.”
City Councilman Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.) also attended Thursday’s rally to address the crowd.
“I’m here to support you, the students and the teachers, and the parents,” Squilla said. “I will follow your lead from what you believe is the right thing to do. The students here want to stay at Carroll,” the councilman continued, to great applause.
At the rally, students formed a human chain around the front of the school, and then marched through the front doors, chanting in unison.
Zach Kaufmann, a Carroll student, also spoke at a meeting of the School Reform Commission on Feb. 21.
“Small schools work. My grades have never have been better. Carroll’s staff is strongly committed to each student being college ready, and I know I will be ready if Carroll stays open,” Kaufmann said in his speech. “I get the one-on-one lessons with my teachers that I need. Please keep my high school open, because I do plan on being a Carroll graduate,” he said.
Carroll students also created a petition asking that the school stay open, and have collected more than 460 community signatures.
Thursday’s rally was organized by Youth United for Change, a youth-led education advocacy organization that works to improve the city’s public schools.
Claire Galpern, youth organizer for YUC, has been spending a lot of time at Carroll as part of the campaign for its continued operation.
“It’s a special school,” she said. “Students enjoy being there. [At the rally], people were glad to be there, fighting for their school.”
Galpern said she absolutely believes that the students’ dedicated activism can keep the school open.
“There have already been schools taken off the list [which originally planned for closure of 38 schools] because of student involvement,” she said. “Putting on the pressure can make changes happen.”
Galpern added that Carroll is at 73 percent capacity, so it’s not underutilized.
In an additional letter to Superintendent Hite signed by State Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.), Squilla, YUC, New Kensington Community Development Corporation, Kensington EPIC Stakeholders and the West Kensington Ministry, those leaders and organizations cited the reasons for their belief that the school should continue to teach city students.
Last year, the letter pointed out, the average daily attendance rates at small schools in the Multiplex ranged from 83 to 90 percent. At Carroll, college acceptance rates have skyrocketed by more than 50 percent in the past five years.
Also according to the letter, Carroll, as well as Douglas High School, 2700 E. Huntingdon St., are part of the Kensington Multiplex, which was established after Kensington High School was broken up into three smaller schools in 2005. In 2010, a fourth small school, Kensington Urban Education Academy, was opened, and Carroll and Douglas were added to the Kensington Multiplex to help relieve overcrowding.
If Carroll and Douglas close, students will have the option of transferring to Kensington Business School, Kensington Urban Education Academy, Kensington Health Sciences, or Mastbaum AVTS High School.
If Sheridan West Academy, 3701 Frankford Ave., closes, students will be reassigned to Penn Treaty Middle School, 600 E. Thompson St.
Hackett Elementary School, 2161 E. York St., will lose students in grades 5 and 6, who will also transfer to Penn Treaty Middle School.
Galpern said YUC has not received a response from the school district about how it might handle the school’s estimated overcrowding.
After Thursday’s rally, Squilla told KYW Newsradio, “I think at this time it’s an uphill battle,” he said. “I believe that the only way is really convince the SRC that maybe they’re making a mistake.”
To the students Thursday morning, he said, “You have the voice to make the difference. You need to send information to the SRC, let them know how important it is to you.”
The SRC votes tomorrow on closures, grade reassignments and relocations. Check ph.ly/star for updates.
Managing Editor Mikala Jamison can be reached at 215-354-3113 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.