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2 parent groups organize to save elementary schools from closure

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

E.M. Stanton and Sheppard Elementary are among the nine schools the District has recommended closing as part of its facilities master plan. But the proposed closures have sparked pushback from parents and activists.

Although both schools’ enrollments are small and their infrastructure is outdated, they have deep community roots.

Supporters of Stanton (SOS), a parent and community group, has attended every School Reform Commission meeting since November.

At a January 19 SRC meeting, SOS members presented a counterproposal to allow Stanton to stay open.

"The crux of our proposal is to increase enrollment in a targeted way," said parent James Wright.

SOS wants to change Stanton’s catchment area, arguing that current boundaries prevent the school from operating at capacity.

The proposal also calls Stanton a "model school" that should be "replicated, not closed." Stanton has made adequate yearly progress (AYP) for the last eight years.

The District has noticed the efforts of SOS.

"They have been the absolute most active group of stakeholders," said Deputy for Strategic Initiatives Danielle Floyd.

"This is exactly the reason we have community outreach, and this is why we’re still in the proposal-and-recommendation stage," Floyd said.

Sheppard supporters must contend with the issue that neighboring Julia de Burgos and Hunter Elementary – both modern buildings – are poised to accept students reassigned from Sheppard.

"Those schools were purposely built to eventually absorb the student population at Sheppard," Floyd said.

But both are in Corrective Action, while Sheppard has made AYP for the last two years.

Parent and alumnus Juan Rivera and other community members are gathering signatures to present to the SRC to show support for Sheppard.

"I want my kids’ kids to go to that school. I love that school," Rivera said.