Green Woods Breaks Ground at Former Keenan's

Reps. Fattah and DeLissio celebrate charter school's new building.

The eighth graders present Wednesday morning witnessed the future for Green Woods Charter School. A yellow school bus transported the students to the former Keenan's Valley View Inn where the environmental science charter school broke ground on its new building.

"This 65,000 square foot facility is going to ensure that generations of families have a great education," Green Woods Board Chair Jeffrey Hammond said.

These kids grew up in the trailers at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, experienced the bump in enrollment and transitioned to former Catholic schools this fall.

Although, they won't attend the 27-room Domino Lane facility, they helped created the top-performing school's legacy.

"It's going to be great, plus we can always come and visit," one girl said.

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, state Rep. Pam DeLissio and the Green Woods community kicked off construction Wednesday at the school slated for 2013-14. Already, crews demolished the long-time Roxborough banquet hall and building should start soon.

Sharing how he came to Green Woods, Hammond discussed the application process six years earlier when his son's acceptance convinced his family to remain in Philadelphia. 

Back then, 54 students applied for 16 spots. Last year, the School Reform Commission expanded its enrollment to 675, and the new school, he said, will give students a home for the next 100 years.

As board president, Hammond shared the school's three long-term goals

1. Increase enrollment.

2. Make the application process accessible

3. Build a board committed to the school's success. 

Green Woods recently drew criticism for what the Education Law Center in Philadelphia called an onerous application process, as detailed by NewsWorks.org.

Hammond said applications will be available on the school's website starting Nov. 1 and people don't have to attend a one-day open house, which won't take place in 2012.

"Now anyone with Internet access... can fill out an application and be part of the school process," he said.

Fattah reminded the crowd that Philadelphia Magazine called Green Woods a top city school.

"I've never seen a school anywhere where kids were so immersed at every single level in science. And this effort to focus on the environment and to teach young people at the earliest age, I just want to thank Jean for what she has created," Fattah said.

Green Woods CEO Jean Wallace credited her staff for making the school a success. 

"Time and again, people will say, 'What makes Green Woods, Green Woods?'" she said. "It really all comes down to teachers... It's about hiring the best possible teachers you can, hiring the most creative, innovative teachers and letting them teach."

The school has an environmental science mission, and Wallace said the school looks to continue community partnerships and those with local universities, noting the shared commitment with Fattah for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.

In her remarks, DeLisiso read off a punch list of charter school requirements, and after visiting the school last week, said the school met every one.

"What a cool agenda and a cool curriculum... I definitely get the innovative curriculum that you are offering and the vision you are going forward with, and I support that," she said.

Rox Girl October 25, 2012 at 01:05 PM
This is exciting news. I am so proud to be a part of the wonderful community that is Green Woods Charter School.
Jane Smith October 25, 2012 at 01:53 PM
This is an absolute disgrace. Charters take money away from public schools. A school that has 90% white population. 0 children with an !EP and 0 children who are classified as economically disadvantaged. Yeah, that is something to be so proud of. And you have to love the fact that Pam Delissio, who speaks out against Charter Schools and Vouchers is right there....must be an election year. Oh, and by the way.....who paid for the school bus? When public school kids want to go on a trip or get a bus for anything they have to hold bake sales and other fundraisers to raise the money.
Jane Smith October 25, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Notice in the pictures there are no minority students or staff.
Lee Ann October 25, 2012 at 02:17 PM
I thought in charter schools parents had to be more involved. So if a parent can't get to the school to pick up the application how are they going to be more involved. If their child gets in and becomes sick how do they get them home. I can see making the application easier to get but what happens next if the kid doesn't make it into the school, lower the standards.
GWCS Mom October 25, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Gee, I guess my son's IEP is... non-existent? I think his best friend is white too, he just colors his face with brown magic markers every day before school. Oh, and those fundraisers (note the plural) that I just handed in? Right, I used monopoly money for those. And the fundraising committees I'm on...we are planning to raise money for champagne and caviar parties for the adults - totally not for the students.
Amnesia928 October 25, 2012 at 03:03 PM
HAHAHAHAHAHA.. Way to go Mom! I think this is hilarious! Jane smith is very ignorant in her comments. I personally know of several "minority" families who attend Green Woods, as well as families who are at or below poverty level. I believe Jane Smith's comments are racist as well as profiling, based on the fact that the children in the photos are white. SHAME ON YOU JANE SMITH, get educated before you spew your mouth!!!!!
KateMongs October 25, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Cry me a river...
KateMongs October 25, 2012 at 04:50 PM
f your child gets sick...they get home by being picked up by their parent like in every other school in the United States of America??? Are you telling them to "lower the standards" or are you questioning if that's what they do? If you are telling them to lower the standards, maybe you need to reflect a little bit and start to higher yours.
Lee Ann October 25, 2012 at 05:10 PM
No I am not asking them to lower the standards. I was saying if a kid doesn't get in and a few parents complain are they going to have to lower their standards to let these kids get in the school. Also If a parent can't find a way to the school to pick up an application how are they going to get there if their child gets sick and has to go home.
Sam Fran Scavuzzo (Editor) October 25, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Hi, Lee Ann. I wanted to clarify a point about the application. The criticism was more about the applications only being available at the one-day open house. The new policy makes applications more accessible and over a longer period of time.
JFP October 25, 2012 at 06:56 PM
i am
JFP October 25, 2012 at 08:11 PM
My error for submitting prior to completing my post. I am a Parent of a child that attends GWCS. As a new parent I would like to say that I am so happy that I applied and then had the opportunity to send my child to GWCS. I'm also happy I have the ability to look past the naysayers, such as Jane, who's criticisms of GWCS fail to capture anything of substance. If I were influenced by ignorant comments such as this I would have failed my child. When she was accepted, I had to face a very difficult choice of pulling her form a top performing neighborhood school. (One, I was very involved in and more people should be because it is a gem.) However, my thorough research informed me it was clear that GWCS was a better fit for her based on her strong interests in science, and inquisitive nature. Before she even stepped in the door, I attended the PTA and I attended the summer activities and kept asking questions. I did this knowing that if I found anything to my dislike, I could just walk away. I found a very strong and involved community of parents and teachers that shared my values in education. (Not because they have to, because they want to) Clearly the perfect place to plant my daughters educational roots, and boy has she blossomed. I now proudly call myself a GWCS parent. And finally, as a minority myself, I find that criticism empty. In ending, I would like to say what I wanted to post in the first place. Congratulations on the groundbreaking, we all are very excited!!! JFP
rich October 25, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Jane ,there are charter schools throughout the city .Maybe you would be more comfortable with a different school other than Greenwoods but you should stop the racial remarks because none of it is true! Greenwoods also has ton of fundraisers which started in the beginning of the year so maybe you should do your homework before you make a comment.
joan October 25, 2012 at 11:40 PM
It's a great shame that the founding mothers were forgotten and never invited to the ground breaking of the school that they spent years on trying to get started, and the years they were involved in trying to make it the best school possible.
Jere Kane March 15, 2013 at 07:05 PM


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