Ben Franklin, SLA task force agrees on 2 potential relocation spots while asbestos work is underway

Mike DeNardo
October 09, 2019 - 10:56 am
Benjamin Franklin High School

Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio, file

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A task force has recommended new temporary sites for students at Science Leadership Academy and Ben Franklin High, while asbestos work and construction are underway through December.

Parents quickly shot down the School District of Philadelphia's idea to relocate the students to Strawberry Mansion and South Philadelphia high schools. So, a 50-member task force of parents, teachers, students and administrators put their heads together over the last two days and unanimously recommended two new sites.

They suggest Ben Franklin students would go to the former Khepera Charter School in North Philly, located at 926 W. Sedgley Ave.

"That's a school that's ready to go," said Sarah Caswell, a teacher, parent of two SLA students, and task force member. "The kids can all be in one place. It has a cafeteria. It has adequate classrooms and bathrooms. It has adequate hallways for passing."

SLA students would be divided among district headquarters at 440 N. Broad St., and either space at John W. Hallahan High, a Catholic school for girls, if a lease can be worked out, or possibly at Congregation Rodeph Shalom, just a few blocks from district headquarters. 

All 1,000 Ben Franklin and SLA students would resume classes at their new locations on Monday, and they would remain there until January, when the much-delayed construction is expected to be finished.

Caswell predicts the district will accept these recommendations. She believes the district would have relocated students to Strawberry Mansion and South Philadelphia high schools if parents hadn't spoken out. They argued those schools' surrounding neighborhoods were far from ideal.

"There's not a doubt in my mind that the school district would have moved ahead," she added, "and there's not a doubt in my mind that parent voice was the kind of deciding factor."

The district is also running an online poll on its website to gather input from parents, teachers and students.

It is expected to make an official announcement Thursday.