This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Parents and community members affiliated with the Eastern Pennsylvania Organizing Project, who for years have been calling for construction of a new Willard School in Kensington, have had to keep their eyes on the prize. A promised groundbreaking – first slated for early 2008 and then for the spring – has now been pushed back to early fall due to delays in the site acquisition.
But after a phone campaign to City Hall and the School District and meetings with key officials, transfer to the District of the abandoned Franklin Recreation Center – formerly a cemetery – finally looks imminent.
"We did what we could to light a fire under them," said neighbor Tina Sellers, who is active in EPOP and the Free Church of St. John. "We were looking for an opening in 2009."
While that completion date now looks unlikely, a District spokesperson reported that "good progress is being made on the negotiations under Mayor Nutter." Last fall, talks between the District and the Street administration over the land had reached an impasse.
Sellers, who attended Willard, as did her children, stays involved because "I want us to do what we can to improve that neighborhood."
The oldest un-remodeled structure in continuous District usage, Willard now lacks a library, gym, and cafeteria, and it has only one set of bathrooms – in the basement.