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Immediate impact of District facilities plan

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

Mastery Charter Schools appeared to be the biggest beneficiary of the immediate recommendations made by the School District as part of the draft Facilities Master Plan unveiled on Thursday.

Mastery currently operates three Renaissance charters. Two of those, Smedley Elementary in Frankford and Mann Elementary in West Philadelphia, are K-5 schools that are now expected to gain a 6th grade. The moves, which Mastery officials and members of the schools’ School Advisory Councils (SACs) have been pushing for months, will facilitate Mastery’s desire to create K-12 feeder patterns in both neighborhoods.

Students from Mann would get an admissions preference at nearby Mastery-Shoemaker, a turnaround charter serving neighborhood students in grades 7-12. Those at Smedley could get a similar admissions preference at Mastery-Lenfest in Center City, although the mechanism for creating that preference is not clear. As a traditional charter school, Lenfest is currently required to hold an admissions lottery open to all students.

“We’re thrilled,” said Mastery CEO Scott Gordon. “It makes sense for the kids, and it sounds like it makes sense for the District.”

The District is also proposing $3 million in renovations to the crumbling Smedley facility, to which Gordon said Mastery would add up to $1.25 million of its own money.

“From a financial point of view, the District gets 25 percent off the price of renovation,” said Gordon.

In addition, Simon Gratz High, recently awarded to Mastery as part of the second round of the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative, is now slated to add grades 6-8, most likely beginning in 2012.

“The building is enormous, built for 2,000 or more children. If we add a middle school of 650 kids, the building will be filled closer to capacity,” said Gordon. “I think that because we participated in the Renaissance [initiative], there were things that came out of that that made sense to all the parties involved.”

Another Renaissance school, Ethel Allen, is also slated to add grades, going from K-6 to K-8. Ethel Allen, which currently serves 388 students, is a District-run Promise Academy, meaning the move will come at added expense to the District. Allen feeds XXXXX.

Ellwood Elementary in East Oak Lane is also slated for a grade change. Currently a K-6 school that feeds Wagner Middle and leases space for an annex, Ellwood would be be transitioned to a K-5 school, and the lease agreement will be allowed to expire. The current 5th and 6th grade classes at Ellwood are now proposed to begin at Wagner beginning next September.

In addition, two pairs of District schools are slated for consolidation beginning next fall.

Hancock Elementary, a K-5 school in Northeast Philadelphia is the only feeder school for LaBrum Middle. The two will be consolidated into a single K-8 with one administration spread over two sites.

And Lamberton Elementary and Lamberton High School, which are currently located in the same Southwest Philadelphia building but have separate administrations, will be consolidated into a single K-12 school serving 822 students.

The District also intends to close Elkin Annex, temporarily relocate and renovate Bridesburg Elementary, and list seven unused school buildings for sale:

· Ada Lewis

· Alcorn Annex

· Beeber-Wynnfield Annex

· Childs

· Gillespie

· Walton

· Muhr

In order to sell those buildings, the SRC would first have to adopt a new Adaptive Reuse Policy that District officials have proposed.

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