Speaking Out

Appeal to the Penn Community

I write out of urgent concern for the University City New School (UCNS). This independent school (Pre-K-8th grade) was founded in 1974 to provide quality, progressive education to the racially and economically diverse community of West Philadelphia. UCNS has been located for 25 years on University property (42nd and Locust) where it has served the families of hundreds of Penn faculty and staff. It has also served the University--by retaining families in West Philadelphia who would otherwise have left for the suburbs.

Today, the UCNS is financially solvent with an annual budget of $800,000. Its staff of 20 includes teachers of the 3 Rs, plus computer, music, art, dance, and foreign language. The school remains true to its founding goals of economic and racial diversity.

In July, UCNS must vacate its long-term home to make way for the Penn-assisted public school to be built on that site. The Penn-assisted school promises to be an important addition to West Philadelphia, but its catchment area will leave large areas unserved. Thus, it seems crucial to preserve the existing school that has served so well over more than a quarter of a century.

UCNS has found a wonderful new home on the ground floor of Calvary Church at 48th & Baltimore Avenue. Architect John Holland has designed new classrooms, libraries, etc.--more and better space--and the UCNS Board assembled a package of $350,000, including a significant contribution from Penn, to pay for the renovations.

But the school now encounters an unforeseen obstacle. On January 15 the city's Zoning Board informed UCNS that an occupancy permit will require air conditioning and sprinklers--costing another $100,000.

UCNS urgently seeks your help. Donations are needed, both small and large.

These funds must be raised immediately so that the whole deal can proceed and building can start. If not, parents will soon be forced to look for other schools.

The goal could be reached quickly if members of the Penn community will help. Realize that the quality of life and physical safety in neighborhoods surrounding Penn depend--not just on better lighting and tighter security--but also on building and preserving an inhabitable community. Please join me today in helping to preserve this school.

--Peter Sterling, Founding Parent Advisor to the UCNS Board, Professor of Neuroscience

P.S.: Your donation is tax-deductible.

Checks should be made to: UCNS (labeled "UCNS on the move") 4201 #1C Spruce St., Phila., PA 19104

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

Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 20, January 30, 2001