Voices of students, parents heard at SRC meeting

January 9, 2013 4:03:43 AM PST
In North Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission wanted to hear community voices about the plan to close 37 schools as part of an overall plan of action.

The SRC didn't have to wait long.

At Dobbins High School in North Philadelphia, hundreds of educators, parents and students - even the little ones - were out of their seats.

"Is everyone going to be scared? No. We're taking back our schools no matter what," a young student said to a round of applause.

The goal for district administrators was to explain how less revenue, major budget cuts, and shrinking enrollment have led to the recommendation of closing almost 40 schools: 13 elementary, middle and high schools in this area of North Philadelphia.

But those explanations could barely be heard over passionate voices.

"You're saying that schools are underutilized, if anything that's a good thing - classes are overcrowded," one parent said.

At Dobbins, the district tried to have two meetings at the same time - one for the elementary and middle schools impacted in this area and another for the three high schools that could close.

The community, though, only wanted one meeting and cleared one room, while filling up the other.

"Let's invest in the people who look like us and talk like us. This is our community, these are our children. Please don't tell me we don't have enough," one parent said.

Before the meeting there was a march to Dobbins from TM Peirce Elementary which is slated to close.

"You close this school down and the children in this immediate community they have a half a mile or mile to walk to the next school," Danice Stith of North Philadelphia said.

It was at the march, Councilwoman Cindy Bass pushed for a one year moratorium on school closures.

"Let's just give it a moment and include people at the table and let's talk about and think this thing through to make sure it's something that makes sense," Bass said.

This was the first of 16 citywide community meetings before the School Reform Commission vote in March.

This is a scene that will probably be seen a few more times as so many fight to keep their schools open.