PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- With only three weeks from the start of school in Philadelphia, there is a lot of optimism and good feelings surrounding the approach of school.
At Rowen Elementary in West Oak Lane, massive renovations are well underway as the new school year approaches.
This includes modernization of classroom for early literacy instruction, symbols of a new era for the city school district in the not so distant past.
The run-up to the start of school used to be marked by a miserable list of dire shortages of teachers, nurses, counselors, book, and computers.
But no more proclaims the superintendent, nearly 700 new teachers are coming aboard.
"The progress includes counselors and nurses in every school, "said School Superintendent Dr. William Hite.
At one point former Mayor Nutter said the barebones belt-tightening made this no longer a real school system.
An infusion of cash from the state, city hall and the years of drastic budget slashes and layoffs has finally paid off and set the stage for this new era of relative prosperity.
"When you had to close 30 schools, reduce staff by 20%, that's 5,000 positions, and that was 5 years ago. But it takes a long time to come back from that, "added Dr. Hite.
And there is a major new item that must be noted weeks in advance. The public schools used to open during the week after Labor Day, no more, classes begin now on August 27.
The Monday before Labor Day to ease the stress of holidays blocking three full weeks of school at the start of the semester.
"You start school after a Labor Day, and there is a series of holidays for the next three weeks," said Dr. Hite.
Random reaction from parents and teachers reflects the new optimistic atmosphere.
Faye Vice of North Philadelphia said, "I'm just hoping it'll be all they say it's going to be. It's been real terrible for me. "
Rick Asman from Fox Chase Elementary said, "I remember the Five year pay freeze. It's my 10th year now. I just rostered all the kids, we're ready to go. "
The school district's leadership believes those grim days of downward spiral are gone with the wind.
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