As of now, the only Philadelphia school being closed isn’t a traditional public school at all. Last night, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted to shutter the District’s oldest charter school, the Community Academy of Philadelphia, which opened in 1997 in Kensington. The school had consistently low test scores and suffered from financial issues.
I was at the SRC meeting during the vote, when an ironic turn of events took place. The first hour or so of the meeting was repeatedly marred by students and activists loudly protesting the SRC’s proposal to shutter 37 schools by next September. (“Whose schools? OUR SCHOOLS!”) There were several minute-long stretches where scheduled speakers couldn’t get a word in, making for a pretty fun, if unconstructive, atmosphere.
When the SRC announced its proposal to close the charter school, I expected the crowd to act a little friendlier towards their antagonists; after all, many see Superintendent William Hite’s school closure plan as an inevitable step towards more charter schools. But when the topic was raised, the crowd, much of which was anti-charter, began booing and chanting again, purely out of instinct. A set of parents I was standing next to began telling the rowdier members of the crowd to pipe down; this was their moment to relax, if not celebrate. Exasperated parent Sharron Gaymon, who was there to lobby against the closure of John F. McCloseky Elementary school in Mt. Airy, eventually lost patience, crying out, “Well, let them close it!”