Following is an update on the collaborative planning effort of the University of Pennsylvania, the School District of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, toward opening a new public school by September 2001.

The Penn-Assisted PreK-8 Neighborhood School:

A January 1999 Update

If University City has excellent schools for children to attend in the years to come, the community will thrive. This is the consensus of a number of planning studies, community meetings, focus groups and surveys. As one important step toward school improvement, the University of Pennsylvania, the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers have formed a unique partnership to pursue the construction of a new Penn-Assisted PreK-8 Neighborhood School, scheduled to open in September 2001. This new school will:

  • Promote high student achievement and professional development for teachers from local schools and elsewhere;
  • Offer a rich variety of community programming activities in the after-school, evening and weekend hours;
  • Have a local governing board comprised of parents, teachers, the school's principal and Penn representatives;
  • Serve a maximum of 700 children and be located on land Penn will contribute between 42nd and 43rd, Locust and Spruce streets;
  • Receive an annual operating subsidy of $1,000 per student from Penn.

What has been done to date?

A coordinating committee and three planning committees (i.e., Educational Programming, Facility/Site Planning and Community Programming) have been established. The committees include teachers, principals, parents, community residents, architects, Penn faculty, school district staff, and others. Supplementing the committees are various work teams, bringing the total level of participation to more than 70 people. A large number of the participants are University City residents.

Collectively, committee members have volunteered more than 1,000 hours since mid-October visiting other schools known for their outstanding educational and community programming; touring several newly-constructed schools to see examples of architectural innovation; talking with education, community programming, and school design experts; studying school reform; participating in a retreat to learn more about school design possibilities and the preservation of open space and historic buildings; and meeting regularly to discuss what has been learned, how it applies to the community and to consider the next steps.

What are the next steps?

In the coming months, committees will focus on refining a vision for the school; developing a curriculum framework; recommending specific community programming activities; crafting the professional development program; working out the details of the governance structure; and designing the site and the facility.

How can you keep informed about the initiative?

We will hold several community forums, and share committee updates periodically through local newspapers and monthly at Penn's web site at

We would like to thank all who graciously and generously have given of their time and expertise. We eagerly look forward to the coming year.

Nancy Streim, Associate Dean, Penn Graduate School of Education

(Educational Programming Chair)


Ted Skierski, Administrator, Design and Construction, School District of Philadelphia

(Facility/Site Planning Co-Chair)


Tom Lussenhop, Managing Director, Penn Institutional Real Estate

(Facility/Site Planning Co-Chair)


Larry Bell, Executive Director, West Philadelphia Partnership

(Community Programming Co-Chair)


Kate Ward-Gaus, Health Educator, Penn Student Health Services and local resident

(Community Programming Co-Chair)

Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 18, January 26, 1999