This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
As Germantown High School and 21 other schools across the city face closure this summer, the central Germantown business district is one of many facing a major new threat of neighborhood blight. Philadelphia has had more than a dozen school buildings sitting vacant, and the health and safety issues and economic impact from closed schools are topics of growing concern.
A new website launched this week, Schoolhouse Watch, promises to help generate neighborhood-friendly solutions for reusing these vacated properties. The site is designed to include a page with resources and discussion for each of the closing buildings.
It’s the product of a new nonprofit media organization, AxisPhilly, which decided to tackle the issue of empty school buildings as part of its mission of promoting citizen engagement on local issues through original and curated reporting and data analysis. NBC10 is one of several partners in the Schoolhouse Watch project. The Notebook is lending its editorial expertise on school closings and school buildings. PlanPhilly is collaborating as well, bringing its background on issues of land use and community development.
Solomon Jones, senior writer at AxisPhilly, is heading up the project.
Schoolhouse Watch and AxisPhilly are also planning a series of events in the communities affected by school closures — the first of which is this week, addressing the future of Germantown High School.
Jones will moderate the forum, co-hosted with NBC10, at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown at 4 p.m. Friday, April 19, with a panel of community leaders and industry experts. The forum is open to the public and will be simulcast by NBC10. Register online to attend or join the discussion online.