Philly schools to hear from parents on redesign of buildings, boundaries

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Parents and the public Tuesday night get their first chance to weigh in on a process that could dramatically alter the landscape for Philadelphia schools. The first of three meetings on what's called the Comprehensive School Planning Review happens at South Philadelphia High School.

Imagine moving to a neighborhood in Philadelphia because of the public school, only to find out the catchment area is being redrawn. To address population changes and increases in charter school enrollment, the School District of Philadelphia is launching a four-phase, four-year process that could result in closing some buildings, opening others, reconfiguring grades and moving catchment boundaries.

Early proposals have been posted on the district's website. The first phase examines 21 schools in South, North and West Philadelphia. District spokeswoman Monica Lewis says the public meetings begin with an overview of the process.

Time and location for the first three meetings:

  • Study Area 1 (South):Tuesday, March 3, 6-8 p.m.South Philadelphia High School2101 S Broad St. 
  • Study Area 2 (North):Wednesday, March 4, 6-8 p.m.Roberto Clemente Middle School122 W Erie Ave. 
  • Study Area 3 (West ):Thursday, March 5, 6-8 p.m.Overbrook High School5898 Lancaster Ave.

"We'll break out into specific rooms for each school to continue the conversation and allow for individuals to hear what the planning committees have been doing thus far," Lewis said.

Laurie Mazer is a parent of two children at Jackson Elementary in South Philadelphia and serves on the leadership team at Parents United for Public Education.

She says she was glad when the CSPR was announced last May, but she says parents have been largely out of the loop until now.

"It absolutely changes things for folks," she said. "And I think will provoke a kneejerk reaction of 'No, I don't like any change, and I don't want anything to be different,' as opposed to the more nuanced approach that we need."

She says she believes the timeline is rushed.

"We're at the point that it's March, and we're having our first public meeting and our first opportunity for public comment on a process that will supposedly be voted on in June. So I don't see how there's any way to incorporate meaningful parent comments," Mazer said.

There will be another round of public meetings next month. She says the meetings will give individual school communities the chance to hear the options on the table.

"The bigger picture is 'What's best for all children of Philadelphia?' And, hopefully, we'll be able to engage with families now to see how we can work together."

Lewis points out that any decisions wouldn't be implemented until the fall of 2021.