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YUC: Small schools aren’t small any more

Photo: Paul Socolar

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

In 2005, after years of pressure from the student organizing group Youth United for Change, the School District divided the former Kensington High School into three “small schools.” A fourth is being built.

But YUC members say the District has gone back on its commitment to small schools at Kensington by allowing the three schools to become overcrowded.

Two hundred YUC members staged a morning protest outside the school February 27 to bring attention to the overcrowding and then met with District officials to discuss how to ease the situation.

Based on data about feeder schools, YUC members warn that the three schools comprising the “Kensington multiplex,” where total enrollment is now more than 1,500 students, will be even larger next year. YUC says these small high schools should be limited to about 400 students apiece.

“They’re giving us new feeder schools and more ninth grade students when we’re overcrowded already,” said Marcella Gibbs, a YUC member and senior at Kensington Business.

“Our classes are really crowded…there’s only one stairway and it’s always packed,” Gibbs said. “The lunchroom is so crowded – there’s no place to sit down.”

District spokesperson Felecia Ward said that the District is continuing to discuss with YUC students how to alleviate overcrowding next fall. A District proposal would limit the total number of incoming freshman at the three schools next year to 270, redirecting many incoming students, primarily to nearby Carroll and Douglas high schools. YUC has proposed opening the planned fourth Kensington school next fall at a temporary site.

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