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Bus service reductions discussed at SRC action meeting

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

The School Reform Commission held an action meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, including a series of public speakers on the topic of reductions in District busing services. A presentation on charters and resolutions on two charter schools were last-minute additions to the agenda.

Check back for updates on the meeting.

A District spokesperson said no staff presentations are planned.

The agenda was posted in advance, as well as a relatively brief list of resolutions, which were brought to a vote.

The SRC approved, 4-0, a resolution that renews, with conditions, the charter for World Communications Charter School for five years.

As recently as June, District staff had recommended non-renewal for World Communications, raising a long list of issues, including financial irregularities and weak board governance. A vote on the school’s charter had been postponed. Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn told the SRC that most of those issues had been addressed since the summer and that conditions in the renewal resolution would ensure that other needed changes take place. Staff and newly appointed board members from the school fielded questions from the SRC before the vote.

Another resolution, approved by a 3-1 vote, postponed action on an earlier SRC decision not to renew the charter for Arise Academy Charter School. Arise was facing a non-renewal hearing, which will now be delayed until at least September 2013. The school’s focus is on serving students in the foster care system.

If Arise fails to shows significant signs of improvement by September of next year, the charter non-renewal process will continue.

"This is, literally, a one-year relief to see how it works," said Commissioner Feather Houstoun.

Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky voted no on the resolution, arguing that after three years of low academic performance at the school, the SRC should "proceed with non-renewal."

The most lively portion of the meeting came as speakers lined up to decry the planned reduction in bus service to Girard Academic Music Program, also known as GAMP. Parents and the school’s principal praised GAMP as a model of excellence and expressed fears that the loss of school buses — part of a districtwide phaseout of busing to out-of-neighborhood schools — would risk the safety of the students, who come from all over the city, and their instruments.

A sympathetic Pedro Ramos, chairman of the SRC, encouraged everyone present to voice their complaints to legislators.

Watch the livestream of each SRC meeting here or view it on PSTV, the District’s cable channel (Comcast Channel 52 or Verizon Fios Channel 20).

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