Neighbors welcome school

Despite bitter cold, the neighbors were out in force for the groundbreaking for the new neighborhood school at 42nd and Spruce Streets March 1. The preK-8 school is a cooperative effort of the University, the School District of Philadelphia and the teachers union.

“I think this school’s going to be an incredible resource,” said neighbor Kate Stover, 44, with her children Lydia Wood, 6, Henry Wood, 3, and husband Tim Wood.

About 30 children who were planning to enter the Penn-assisted school in September sat patiently under a large party tent, their parents hovering, waiting for the ceremony to begin. Cuong Pham, whose 4 1/2-year-old was among those waiting, was upbeat about having the school in the neighborhood. “I think it will be great,” he said. “We need something.”

Then the dignitaries, starting with Vice President Steve Schutt, thanked the School District, the neighbors, the committees, the politicians, the University.

“This is Philadelphia at its best,” said President Judith Rodin. City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, said, “Schools are always good things.” And School Board President Pedro Ramos (C’87) pointed to the help Penn was also giving to Carver High School, a science magnet school moving onto land in the University City Science Center.

Mayor Street spoke after the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ Ted Kirsch, School District Interim Chief Executive Officer Phil Goldsmith, Graduate School of Education Dean Susan Fuhrman, and West Philadelphia Cluster Leader Janice Butler, and after State Rep. James Roebuck spoke of the new school’s role in making all the schools in West Philadelphia better.

Then, with a backhoe and a bulldozer as a backdrop, the dignitaries with white hard hats and silver spades, and the patient children with yellow hard hats and bright plastic spades, broke ground together in the ceremonial sandbox, planting franklinia seeds and marigold seeds, symbols of growth and the future. The dignitaries dug briefly, then beamed at the digging children.

A few windblown picket signs opposing the school were overwhelmed by the community celebration. Neighbor Nancy Cox, 70, said, “It’s probably going to be the best school for miles and miles.”

After the talking and the digging came the party — hot cocoa, animal crackers, apples, carrot and celery sticks, and goldfish, plus baby wipes to clean off the dirt.

Originally published on March 22, 2001