Science Leadership Academy gets ready to move into Ben Franklin High School

Science Leadership Academy gets ready to move into Ben Franklin High School
Photo credit Mike DeNardo/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The new school year will bring dramatic changes for two Philadelphia high schools on opposite ends of the academic spectrum, as the schools will be sharing the same building.

Students at Science Leadership Academy are going to class in the same building as Ben Franklin High School. SLA's $1 million-a-year lease at 22nd and Arch streets was up, and the district had extra room at under-enrolled Ben Franklin High School at Broad and Spring Garden streets.  

So one of the city's top magnet schools, SLA, is moving in with Franklin. 

SLA has a 98 percent graduation rate, and 78 percent of those grads go on to college. At Franklin, 20 percent of the students have been suspended at one time or another, and 59 percent graduate.

"They're definitely distinct schools. But there are things that, where we can come together, we wanted children to have the experience of being in a community. Because, really, that's how the world works," said Shawn Bird, district chief schools officer.

Superintendent William Hite said the students have already been collaborating.

"Those two groups of young people have been meeting together. They've actually informed this project from the first day," Hite said. 

The district spent $37 million to renovate Ben Franklin, building a wall separating Franklin on the east side and SLA on the west. 

The two schools will have separate entrances with metal detectors, but students will share common areas on the first and sixth floors.

"My greatest hope is that these two distinct schools can come together and thrive and be a real model for the city of how our young people can and do get along," Bird added.