Throughout the constant ebb and flow of school closings and student reshuffling, school district officials must feel as though they’ve caught a cresting wave with this week's announcement that the district is expanding the number of available seats in the highest achieving public schools.
Penny Nixon, the district’s chief academic advisor, joined district spokesman Fernando Gallard and Philadelphia High School for Girls Principal Dr. Parthenia Moore for the announcement, made in front of Girls’ High.
“I am extremely excited to announce some great news about the district’s commitment to expanding high performance seats,” Nixon said. “An unprecedented expansion of 2,272 seats in 19 of the district-managed, high-performing schools for the 2012–2013 school year; and a total of 1,802 additional seats will be available in 11 high schools and 470 [seats] in six elementary and two middle schools.
“This represents one of a set of steps the district has taken to continue to increase the number of high quality school options for students and parents in public schools.”
The eight elementary and middle schools that are both high-achieving and can accommodate that space are AMY Northeast, E.M. Stanton, D. Newlen Fell, Fox Chase Academics Plus, Joseph Greenberg, Albert M. Greenfield, Middle Years Alternative and George W. Nebinger. The 11 high schools are Academy at Palumbo, Carver High School of Engineering and Science, High School for Creative and Performing Arts, Franklin Learning Center, Philadelphia High School for Girls, Lankenau, Philadelphia Military Academy/Leeds, Parkway Center City, Randolph Skills Center, Walter B. Saul and Arts Academy at Rush.
“Four [additional] schools were selected for the Renaissance Schools match process, shifting approximately 3,000 more seats to high performing turnaround teams,” Nixon said. “The district’s goal is to continue to invest in the growth of high performing school options while closing or restructuring low performing schools.”
Moore, herself a graduate of Girls’ High, said her school is more than capable of absorbing the 334 extra students slated to enroll in September.
“Right now, we have the capacity to accept 334 and possibly more students that would come to our school,” Moore said. “We have classrooms that are being used for other reasons, so we have the room in our building to do that. Staff will also be increased to meet the needs of our students.
“I should also say that the rigor we have in our school will not be watered down in any way, shape or form,” Moore continued. “So we can be sure the standards that we have set over these 164 years remain in place.”
The 19 schools were specifically targeting because they all carry a score of 3 on the district’s School Performing Index and can safely manage and teach the extra influx of students. Two of the high schools offer citywide enrollment while nine have special admission policies; all elementary and middle school seats will be made available via the No Child Left Behind School Choice program, district officials said. Parents have until May 4 to submit voluntary transfer applications to any of these schools.
“When I walked up those steps and seen the beautiful faces of the beautiful young women and I think about the opportunities we will provide … my excitement just skyrocketed,” Nixon said. “This underlines the district’s commitment.”