Speaking Out

Loss of Childcare Centers?

As a Penn employee who grew up in University City, I am delighted that the University will be contributing substantial resources to improving local public schools. Still, I am disappointed that Penn arranged to donate the block at 42nd and Spruce Streets--the current site of the Parent Infant Center, the Penn Children's Center, and the University City New School--to the School District of Philadelphia without consulting either the current tenants and their clients or the Penn community at large. My understanding is that no arrangements have been made to ensure the continuance of these schools on that site or elsewhere.

Penn's involvement in founding a high quality public elementary school on the block certainly demonstrates an admirable commitment to making the neighborhood more "livable" and should do much to shore up the University's future. More importantly, it acknowledges that a quality education necessarily begins in childhood and therefore should be made available to all children.

However, this new initiative would be much more heartening and meaningful if Penn were to demonstrate similar concern for the many area families and Penn employees with very young children. Everyone knows how rare quality early childhood education is. That PIC and PCC are among just a few childcare centers in the Delaware Valley accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children should be a point of pride for Penn, not to mention a selling point for faculty recruitment. PIC in particular has achieved remarkable success in providing exceptionally high quality daycare for economically and racially diverse families with little support from Penn. In fact, it has done this while competing with Penn's own PCC! Moreover, the block is ideal for the current schools because it is grassy and spacious. It is hard to imagine that another site could be found that offers so much outdoor play space and is so conveniently located.

I implore the University to consider the needs of those who may be displaced by this project--including the Penn class of 2020!--and to invite the directors and parents of these schools to share in the planning process before making additional decisions about the block.

--Judy Jackson, Associate Director,

Biomedical Graduate Studies

Response On PIC/PCC

We agree with Ms. Jackson that the Parent Infant Center and the Penn Children's Center provide childcare services that are of great value to the community, and we share her enthusiasm for the high quality of these services. While the broad framework for a new PreK-8 university-assisted public school is in place, the detailed planning processes have not yet begun; they will shortly. We expect and intend to engage the community in that planning, and we look forward to working with the leadership of both the PIC and the PCC to ensure their roles as vital components in the education of young children in the community for years to come.

--Stephen D, Schutt, Vice President and

Chief of Staff, President's Office

Ed.Note: Penn's summary of the Memorandum of Understanding, page 8, provides some details of the plan as announced June 18. An e-mail address has been established for comment by members of the University and the community: pschool@pobox.upenn.edu. Any concrete developments or official statements issued between now and the resumption of weekly publication September 8 will be posted to Almanac Between Issues, www.upenn.edu/almanac.

Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues can be accepted by Thursday, August 20, at noon for the September 8 issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated.--Ed.

Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 1, July 14, 1998