Grant boosts neighbors' role

Thanks to a $325,000 grant announced this month by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the community's role in a new University-assisted public school at 42nd and Locust will be strengthened.

About 700 students in pre-kindergarten to 8th grade from the surrounding neighborhood will attend the public school, to be built by the School District of Philadelphia on land donated by Penn and scheduled to open in September 2001. The Graduate School of Education is lending its expertise to the enterprise, and the University will donate an annual subsidy of $1,000 per student.

Planners expect the school's benefits to reach beyond its students.

"It's important that this not be an isolated school, but part of a network," said Nancy Streim, associate dean of GSE and chair of the Educational Programming Committee. She said the committee was planning professional development, with schools from throughout the University City and West Philadelphia clusters sharing their strengths and expertise using computer, audio and video linkages.

All the schools in the two clusters will benefit from the program, said Kate Ward-Gaus, co-chair of the Community Programming Committee. "We believe it's important that there be an afterschool program" open to students throughout the two clusters, providing help with homework; recreation; tutoring; and cultural programs that not all schools can provide.

The three committees, which include Facility Site Planning, are also working on adult programs for after school hours.

A third to a half of the committee members are people who live in the community, Streim said.

Ward-Gaus, who is with the University's Office of Health Education, is herself a resident of University City and the parent of three public school students, ages 8, 14 and 17. Her own interest in the school was to address the "broader education in West Philadelphia issues."

"We need a way to get as much input as possible - from the community, from census information, from government and school data," Ward-Gaus said. "It's an education facility first, with a community facility connected to it."

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Originally published on January 28, 1999