Early last Tuesday afternoon, lifelong Bridesburg resident and Bridesburg Elementary School parent Adam Visconto received a phone call from Ken Cherry, an assistant superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia.
According to Visconto, Cherry said: “Adam, Dr. Hite [Philadelphia school district superintendent] wanted to let you know it’s a done deal. Congratulations. You did great work.”
Short and simple, the message served as a culmination of Visconto’s and other community members’ mission to expand Bridesburg Elementary School to include seventh and eighth grade.
District spokeswoman Chanice Savage confirmed via email that beginning this fall, the school will add two seventh-grade classes, succeeded by two eighth-grade classes the following school year.
This is the second victory for Visconto and the Bridesburg community in only eight months.
As previously reported by Star, Bridesburg Elementary School, formerly a K-5 school, added a sixth grade this past September.
After being awarded the sixth grade and being told by former Assistant Superintendent Dion Betts that all growth options were open for discussion, Visconto approached school officials in September to ask how to proceed with a complete expansion to a K-8 school.
“Unfortunately, nothing really came out of that meeting, so I took it upon myself to contact Mr. Cherry, the new assistant superintendent, directly,” explains Visconto.
The two began communicating frequently in October 2013 about the progress of a possible expansion.
“At that point, parents of sixth-grade parents were getting notifications saying they were going to have to fill out applications for middle school,” recalls Visconto.
Now, only four months later, parents can rest assured that all current students will be able to continue through eighth grade at Bridesburg Elementary.
Visconto is in awe of the rapid development.
“It really was a quick turnaround and I think it speaks to the character of the school, the community, and just how much sense it made,” he said.
Savage said the expansion was a logical decision.
“Academically, the school has a positive track record,” she said. “The school is new and has the ability to expand to seventh and eighth grade.”
So what can parents of Bridesburg Elementary School students expect?
First, an official announcement by the School District of Philadelphia, according to Savage, will be made within the next couple of weeks.
Additionally, there will be no new construction to the school, because the classroom space is already available.
All students already attending Bridesburg Elementary can remain until eighth grade.
Visconto said he was glad neighborhood children would continue to have the opportunity to receive a quality education close to home.
The expanding school is the foundation for future vibrancy in the community, he said.
“If I were to make a skeleton, Bridesburg Elementary is the spine,” he said. “It’s what keeps it [the community] together and it’s what keeps it going. Hopefully it will continue to attract families that already see the neighborhood as an amazing place to live and raise their families.”