The James Alcorn Elementary School in Gray’s Ferry will make learning a little more comfortable this coming school year, as school district officials have recently authorized an extra building for the school to educate its sixth- through eighth-grade students.
Alcorn, at 32nd and Dickinson streets, is now slated to become a K–8 school and the upper grade students will be taught in a building adjacent to it, said Chief Academic Advisor Penny Nixon.
“Alcorn was actually a K–5 school that grew to be a K–8, and for years, students were housed in an annex, and a few years ago, that annex was closed,” Nixon explained, noting that Alcorn’s retrofitting is not related to the district’s decision to close several schools and relocate those students to other neighborhood schools. “It came down to two issues — one around space. There was not enough adequate space in the building for all K–8 students — and to improve academic programs.”
Nixon said the realignment will result in K-5 students, while the adjacent building — Alcorn Middle Years Academy — will house sixth- through eighth-graders.
Nixon said the other factor was the district’s commitment to improve the academic results of Alcorn. According to Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) data provided by the school district, Alcorn’s academic results have been poor, with third- and eighth-graders scoring roughly half as well as their peers in reading and math. And according to the latest results from the School Performance Index (SPI) following the 2010 school year, Alcorn finished with the lowest scores in its comparison group, which includes Rhoads, Bryant, Blankenburg, Smith, Huey, Mifflin, Kearny, W.D. Kelly and Steel public schools.
But instead of shutting Alcorn down, the district has decided to give it one more chance.
“Alcorn was one of the schools struggling academically; that’s why we’ve focused on space and academic achievement,” Nixon said. “It really isn’t an expansion. Alcorn was on our Renaissance List for two years, so we knew it needed improvement.
“Additionally, community leaders came to us in regard to working on the school,” Nixon continued. “Given the additional support, we think we’ll see improvement at Alcorn.”
That community involvement led to the recent meeting between the community and district concerning Alcorn’s future. Nixon recently sent a letter to all Alcorn families, outlining the forthcoming changes. The next public meeting on Alcorn is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 22 at Alcorn.
“Thanks to efforts by the community and district, turnout [for the first meeting] was excellent,” Nixon said. “At least 173 people turned out to that meeting, which is a large number, because there are only 165 sixth- through eighth-graders attending Alcorn.
“This week is for K–5 parents, and also serves as the orientation for both schools, so additional parents and community members will be there and are welcome.”