SRC Votes to Close Levering Elementary
AMY Northwest Middle School will relocate to Roxborough facility.
It's official—Levering Elementary School will close its doors in June, making way for a middle school and dispersing its students throughout the area.
Citing the excessive cost to maintain schools throughout the city, the School Reform Commission unanimously voted Thursday night to close Roxborough's Levering School, along with six other city schools.
"We want to create an efficient use of school facilities to allow programs and resources to align that most benefit students," Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon said.
Starting in the fall, students from the school will be dispersed to Cook-Wissahickon, Dobson, and Mifflin schools. The district will keep the facility, and Mt. Airy's AMY Northwest Middle School will move in.
One Parent Speaks Up
Julie Anna Melnick is the mother of a Levering student and spoke before the SRC on behalf of others who couldn't attend.
"I don't have any hidden agendas. I'm tired and I'm exhausted. I am completely worn out trying to find ways and trying to reach out to people and foundations to save the Levering program," she said.
Melnick said parents at Leverings were blue-collared people and didn't possess the "doctors and the lawyers and the accountants and other college-educated parents that Cook, Dobson and Shawmont have in their system. My parents are busy working two to three jobs to not be burden on this economy and your school system.
"They are just wanting the best education for their children."
She said she understood the resource burden the school district faces, but she is looking out for her child's welfare.
"I wish I could give you the solutions... but I am only a parent who has failed. I've failed my daughter, and I have failed my teachers, my crossing guards, my janitors," she said.
Commissioner Lorene Cary thanks Melnick for her devotion, despite the negative outcome.
"I wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge the sadness, trauma and heartache that losing schools creates. We know it, and yet we most go through the process to make it the right size," she said, adding the district needs to improve its relocation process.
SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos credited the Levering family, because "they came in with ideas, and it just didn't work out."
How it Came to Pass
At its lengthy Thursday meeting, the SRC closed eight facilities at elementary, middle and high schools. Only two schools—E. M. Stanton and Sheppard Elementary—avoided closure in the short term, as the SRC deferred a vote.
The district undertook its facilities surplus in November 2010. Over the past year-and-a-half, school officials worked to develop a strategy to effectively reduce the district's footprint while not harming education.
"We have more infrastructure than what is needed and the cost to maintain it, is a cost to the classroom," Ramos said.
Commissioner Feather Houstoun said the process is just underway, and several dozen other schools will be considered over the next two to three years. This initial phase, she said, gave good insight into how the district should proceed.
"This brought us to the realization that everything we do has to be behind this screen of high quality school programs. We do not want to harm good schools," she said.
Attending the hearing via conference call from his home in California, Commissioner Joseph Dworetzky said, "I see our city so often holding onto the past... I don't want to be overly cautious based on that."
The district intends to make revenue from the sale of unused facilities. Already well into the budget process, the district must close a $186 million budget shortfall for this coming year.
In a news release, the district said it will communicate directly with the school communities to notify parents, students and staff of the next step procedures.
Editor's note: The reporter based the article from watching the live hearing broadcast online.