Tonight, the School Reform Commission will be hearing from parents, teachers and community members in two more formal school closing hearings - for M.H. Stanton Elementary, in North Philadelphia, and Beeber Middle School, in West Philadelphia. (They were late additions to the closing list, and so not voted on when the SRC moved to shut 23 schools last month.)
Earlier today, my colleague Karie Simmons covered a press conference where concerned citizens - and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell - said they will continue to try to halt the closings.
Parent Danita Bates said she feels the city’s schools are under attack.
Bates and members of Respect Our Vote Movement Group, a grassroots organization, announced that after months of fighting against school closings they will head to the Pennsylvania State Capital on Wednesday with hopes of a resolution.
“We’re tired, we’re not trying to fight, but we’re tired of the runaround,” Bates said.
Respect Our Vote Movement Group reached out to the school district in an effort to meet with them prior to going to Harrisburg, but according to Respect Our Vote member Vernard Johnson the district was not responsive.
Johnson said the Respect Our Vote Movement Group, parents, teachers and community members will meet with the Department of Education at the capitol on Wednesday to meet with officials, then plot their next steps.
“We’re going to push the state to do what the state was supposed to be doing since 2001, and that’s running our schools and running them properly,” he said.
The state formally took over the Philadelphia school district in 2001, eliminating the previous school board, passing a school takeover law and establishing the current SRC.
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell is in support of the group’s bus trip to Harrisburg, which will leave at 7 a.m. Wednesday from 15th and Market streets, and she is proud of any Philadelphian who fights for the city’s youth.
“They will try to see everybody they can in the capital to say, ‘Keep our schools open,’” Blackwell said.
Bates thinks the outcome of the SRC’s decision was detrimental to the area, and if the SRC votes to close two more schools this year, things will only get worse. She fears overcrowding and other problems will result from the closings.
Orlando Acosta, president of Respect Our Vote Movement Group, urged community members to join the group in its trip to the Harrisburg and support every school, open or closed, claiming both have been equally affected.
“It’s not about our school, this school, it’s about all our community and it’s together,” he said.
After they return from Harrisburg Acosta said the group plans to continue their efforts to fight school closings throughout the summer, even if they have to go all the way to Washington, D.C.