Reading area restored in Lea classroom

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

The reading area ordered removed from a 3rd grade classroom at the Lea Elementary School has been restored after the teacher’s husband complained to the School Reform Commission and wrote a widely circulated post about it for the Notebook.

School District spokesperson Fernando Gallard confirmed that the furniture had been moved back into the classroom from storage after Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon personally visited the class.

"After meeting with the teacher, she said she didn’t see any reason the furniture shouldn’t be put back," Gallard said.

Andrew Ganim spoke at the SRC meeting on January 19 about school officials’ sudden removal of a comfortable reading corner from a classroom in the West Philadelphia school. He said a District team had deemed the area "clutter" during a walkthrough.

His post about it ran in the Notebook on February 9. It was picked up by national outlets, including the education blog The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post and got more than 11,000 reads and nearly 200 comments on the Notebook website.

Ganim, whose article contended that the walkthrough team was more concerned about furniture arrangement than about nurturing a love of reading in children, said he was pleased.

“Hopefully there will be other positive changes, beyond this one incident resolved, as a result,” said Ganim.

Nixon was joined by Assistant Superintendent Lissa Johnson and Lea Principal Lisa Bell-Chiles in her visit to the classroom. Gallard said that Nixon then had a one-on-one conversation with the teacher.

The furniture had been removed over the Martin Luther King Day weekend without the teacher’s knowledge. The reading area had been donated by members of the community through

Gallard said that Nixon went to Lea to meet with the teacher "to communicate that her office is there to support teachers."

He added that “student safety” had been a factor in the District’s original concern about "clutter" in the room, but that the room was now organized in such a way that it did not impede students moving around or exiting.