The last school year was tumultuous for many within the School District of Philadelphia, especially for those in Roxborough. The School Reform Commission closed Levering Elementary School, which opened in the 1700s, and relocated the Mt. Airy-based AMY Northwest to the historic site at 6000 Ridge Ave.
Throughout the spring and summer, Principal Marco Zanoni oversaw the move from St. Therese in Mt. Airy to the Roxborough campus. Although the work is not over, Zanoni said everything should be ready by the first day of school.
"We're really in a good position. I want to thank the parents for their patience and for welcoming the new parents. We're grateful for our new building," he said.
Expansion to Roxborough
AMY Northwest formed 33 years ago and exists as a magnet, application-only middle school. A public school, anyone within the district is eligible to apply for admission. The school drew heavily from its Mt. Airy home base, but the Roxborough enrollment has increased.
The new campus lies on 2.3 acres and sprawls across two buildings and five floors. Enrollment will increase 50 percent and six new teachers will come on in 2012-13.
"We're growing here, but we already occupy nearly all of it," Zanoni said.
Just by assuming the Levering building, AMY Northwest will add a lot. The move creates a school store; separates the gym, cafeteria and auditorium; gives teachers' more prep areas; and expands musical, art and science rooms.
In addition to giving AMY Northwest a new home, the school district has renovated the Levering building substantially, including:
- Adding Promethean Boards to many rooms;
- Installing new marble in the opening hall;
- Painting, flooring and redoing classrooms;
- Repaving portions of the parking lot and adding new nets on the outdoor basketball court (due to neighbors' help).
Many students will travel to Amy Northwest from across the Wissahickon.
"We hoped the school district would provide transportation but I understand the financial hardships. We appreciate our students embarking on this more difficult commute," he said, adding students will receive free SEPTA TransPasses.
School District's Help
For this principal, summer has been anything but a vacation. Zanoni's worked with the district to oversee the move from Mt. Airy, in addition to auditing the Levering facility (many elementary supplies will go to the three Roxborough schools), and setting up the new classrooms.
"It's been a lot of long day, weekends. By the time you leave every night, your shirt is sticking to your back," he said.
Zanoni credited the School District of Philadelphia—from the administration to facilities to workers—for making the transition easier.
"Honestly, the biggest surprise has been the tons of support we've received from the school district. And I'm not just saying that. I've been here for a number of years and this is an unprecedented amount of support," he said, particularly thankful of Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon.
Though only a few months into the building himself, Zanoni expertly knows the halls and classrooms, from the state of storage closets to the number of bulletin boards on certain floors.
Becoming a Roxborough School
While AMY Northwest will continue its own legacy at the historical building, Zanoi respects Roxborough's past. In addition to speaking at the elementary school's last graduation, he has devoured any reading he's come across about Levering. "I very much want to celebrate Levering's history."
The former school helped Levering middle-school students apply and gain admittance to AMY Northwest. Zanoi couldn't confirm a specific number as students could decide to go elsewhere. However, he said a "significant number" of former Levering students will continue to walk its halls.
In addition, AMY Northwest will employ two former Levering teachers.
A key point for the 2012-13 school year is to become part of the neighborhood. The middle school sent a letter in August to all new parents.
"At AMY, we place great importance on our role in the community. We have developed wonderful community partnerships during our time in Mt. Airy, and we look forward to doing the same in Roxborough," the letter said.
The principal met with the 5th District Police in addition to state Rep. Pamela DeLissio (D-194). He invites the community to the to kick off the school year. He grew up in Swampoodle and said Roxborough has the "feel of a Philadelphia neighborhood."
"We're hoping the community will work alongside us to help make this a true community school," Zanoi said.
Visit the AMY Northwest Middle School website for more information.