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School board approves FACTS move, funds for new Solis-Cohen building

The board also approved more than $12 million in contracts for supplies and equipment to make school repairs.

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

The Board of Education approved the relocation of one school and new construction of another at its meeting Thursday night.

The board agreed to Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School’s (FACTS) plan to move from 1023 Callowhill St. to 421 N. Ninth St. in the 2020-21 school year. The new location will provide 85,000 square feet of space to enable the school to grow from its current 533 students to a maximum of 847 in kindergarten through 8th grade.

Board members also heard from Academy at Palumbo high school students Kamryn Sacksith and Christina Ly, as the teens lambasted them about the condition of the Palumbo school building.

In September, parts of the school flooded after large amounts of water built up on top of the roof and leaked into the building, causing ceilings to collapse during two rainy weekends.

“When I am going to school, the last thing I want to worry about is if the ceiling is going to fall on top of my head,” Sacksith said, “which has actually happened to me before.”

Sacksith echoed the sentiments of teachers and students districtwide. For years teachers and students have lamented working and learning in unhealthy buildings, and now repairing them has become a priority.

Moving toward that goal, the board approved more than $12 million in contracts for supplies and equipment.

“These problems are not going to just disappear,” Sacksith said before the board’s vote. “You may be able to forget or ignore them, but we have to face them every time we walk into that building, putting ourselves at risk.”

The board also approved more than $52 million in contracts for the construction of a new school building for Solomon Solis-Cohen Elementary in the Northeast. The District broke ground on the new two-story, 140,000-square-foot school in June. Construction is scheduled to be complete by the 2020-21 school year.

The new building will feature 45 classrooms, 15 prep classrooms, five breakout rooms, science labs, art rooms, and more, for about 1,400 K-5 students.

In addition, the building will feature energy-efficient equipment and lighting, a green roof, and a stormwater management system. The District won a $2 million Alternative and Clean Energy grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to help pay for its construction.

According to a 2017 District building assessment report, repairing the 72-year-old building would have cost more than $25 million, and if the building were replaced as-is, it would cost $67 million.

At the meeting, the board also approved $400,000 in donated services from Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry to provide dental examinations at pre-kindergarten sites. A 2017 assessment found that about 12 percent of children in pre-K programs never had a dental exam, risking decay, which can have severe health consequences.