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Renaissance schools up for approval at special SRC meeting

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

The School District plans to finalize the conversion of three elementary schools into Renaissance schools at a just-announced special meeting of the School Reform Commission at 8 a.m. Friday. There are more than a dozen items on the agenda.

As of now, there are no plans for the SRC to take action this week on restoring any of the 3,800 positions that were eliminated this year, said District spokesperson Fernando Gallard.

The turnaround process at the three planned Renaissance Schools had been stalled due to the District’s fiscal crisis.

Citing budgetary uncertainties, Superintendent William Hite decided last month to delay the approval of turning over Alcorn, Kenderton, and Pastorius elementaries to their recently assigned charter operators — Universal Companies, Scholar Academies, and Mastery Charter Schools, respectively.

Local officials are still working on ways to raise more money for Philadelphia schools, and key components of the school funding package from the city and state have yet to be secured, but District leaders are asking the SRC to move ahead with the expensive Renaissance conversions nonetheless.

According to the proposed resolutions for the three schools that will be under consideration at the meeting, enrollment caps for each of the schools allow for some expansion over the next five years. In the case of Pastorius, the District’s cap starts at 521 and tops out at 596 seats in 2017.

This number falls short of the 650 seats envisioned by the Philadelphia School Partnership, when it awarded Mastery a $3.5 million grant last week to add more than 1,600 seats across four schools, including Pastorius.

A different grant from Philadelphia School Partnership is also on the agenda. The SRC will be voting on accepting a $1.1 million donation to "fund salary and benefits for certain positions" at three District schools: Hill-Freedman Middle School in East Germantown, a new high school called the Workshop School (formerly known as the Sustainability Workshop), and a new campus of Science Leadership Academy located at Beeber Middle School. District officials said there are precedents for outside organizations to provide the funding for specific school-based District employees.

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