This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Members of Youth United for Change (YUC) were among the many youth who rallied and pushed for the District to maintain its 13 accelerated schools – and they were successful.
The schools – which serve mostly over-age, undercredited students looking to get re-engaged and graduate – were put on the District’s chopping block in May to help close a $629 million budget gap. District officials instead proposed creating five regional centers, but the alternative was unpopular.
Students, parents, and community members crowded School Reform Commission and City Council hearings and led rallies to protest the proposed closures.
“It felt great [to protest] because I got to experience how other people protest for what they believe in,” said Emily Moronta, YUC member and student at Edison EOP, an educational options program where students 17 years and older can earn credits toward a diploma.
The schools were saved when the District received $53 million in additional funds approved by City Council and the mayor, of which $8.2 million was earmarked for maintaining the schools. But doubts remain about their longevity.
“We have to continue to stress upon education stakeholders that these programs are worth fighting for because they make a difference,” said Todd Block, CEO of the Camelot Schools, an alternative school provider.
“The unanswered question is whether the School District considers these over-age, at-risk students part of the District’s core mission,” Block said.