Stanton, Sheppard supporters see efforts to save their schools pay off

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

When parents and supporters of E.M. Stanton Elementary in South Philadelphia and Sheppard Elementary in Kensington learned last summer that the District was considering shutting down their schools, they jumped into action.

Both schools mounted months-long campaigns to stay open – and they worked.

The School Reform Commission voted March 29 to shutter eight schools from the District’s proposed closure list, but Stanton and Sheppard were spared.

Now staff and consultants are recommending 64 more schools to be closed over the next five years, including 40 in 2013. The announcement has drawn widespread worry among parents and students.

But Jamie Roberts, an English as a Second Language teacher at Sheppard, said she is just relieved to have gotten through this round of closings.

"Now we can finally concentrate on being teachers," said Roberts. "The bond of working together for this has brought our parents, teachers, and students even closer together."

Among their efforts, Sheppard supporters spoke regularly at SRC meetings; they delivered signatures from hundreds of parents and community members as a plea to save their school.

Supporters of Stanton – or SOS, as the group became known – came together almost immediately after learning of the District’s plans. Their campaign involved parents, teachers, students, and community activists who began meeting weekly to plan and mobilize support.

The group constructed a comprehensive counterproposal to the District’s closing plan. The alternative plan called for housing an autism-support program at Stanton and expanding the school’s catchment area to increase enrollment.

Parent and SOS spokesperson Temwa Wright said she is thrilled with the SRC’s decision. But she recognizes the fight is not over and plans to stay engaged.

"We’re definitely going to continue conversations with the District because … they are still troubled with the facilities issue," Wright said.

"We don’t want to relocate," she said. "We have to continue to make that clear. We would like to come up with solutions to keep the program intact at our location."