School board gives Drexel $7M to house 2 new Philly schools

School District of Philadelphia
Photo credit Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio, file
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The board of the School District of Philadelphia has voted to give Drexel University $7 million toward the construction of a new home for two Philly schools. 

Drexel approached the board two weeks ago, asking for a $7 million contribution to start construction on a building to house the Powel Elementary and Science Leadership Academy Middle schools on the site of the old University City High School at 36th and Filbert streets, near the newly developed Schuylkill Yards.

Drexel had already raised $29 million for the project, but fundraising for a goal of $39 million fell short. 

The district would lease the building from Drexel for $12 a year to house both schools.

At Thursday night's meeting, education activist and retired teacher Deborah Grill questioned the arrangement.

"So the leasee not only has to pay rent but also has to contribute to the construction of the landlord's building, as well as pay for repairs and capital improvements," she said. "This deal only underscores the irony of the district now renting a school building from Drexel on the site of the school building that it sold to Drexel a few years ago."

Gretchen Walker, head of the Powel Home and School Association, said a new building is imperative for her crowded school.

"There's mold that needed to be remediated in the music facility, which is rented, because there is not enough school at Powel," she added, among other environmental problems.

The board voted 6-0 to contribute the $7 million to the project. 

"I wish we weren't in a position to have to put in money to get the school built," admitted school board member Angela McIver. "But there are families in limbo right now."

Fellow board member Chris McGinley called it a "responsible move."

"If we were to rebuild Powel School ourselves, we would be spending way more than this amount," he noted. "There's no way we could have a school of this size for $7 million on our own."

The new school is expected to open in September 2020.