This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
With classes set to begin Monday morning, here’s the on-the-ground view of what life in a traditional Philadelphia public school looks like:
Fewer staff. More students. Basic supplies at a premium. Money for discretionary spending non-existent.
For a school district that’s closed 24 schools and shed 3,000 staffers over the past few months, it’s the most contentious school opening in recent memory.
One day this week, Kristin Luebbert leaned over the copy machine at the Bache-Martin School in the city’s Fairmount section, making duplicates of her first-day-of-school icebreaker.
"It just asks them like ‘What was the best day of my life? Who’s my favorite relative?’ Just little things that make them feel at ease," she said.
The pieces of paper that whir through the hulking machine are her own. Luebbert, a reading and social studies teacher, had to go out and buy it herself.
"This is my free ream of paper that I got from Staples last week and got a rebate for, so that’s where I got my paper," she said. "Everybody was down there getting their paper because otherwise we’re really not going to have any."
When she’s done making copies she leans down and reopens the tray to the machine.
"Yeah, you’ve got to make sure you take all your paper," she said. "Although we’re really nice to each other and loan each other when we run out, still, you never leave paper in the machine because it’s ‘your’ paper."
Paper. It’s become a symbol of the greater woes facing a school district in deep financial turmoil. It’s a basic need that, even as schools open, the District says it can’t promise.