Students at Science Leadership Academy have always known that the building in Center City would not be their permanent home. Since the building is not owned by the district, the School Reform Commission has to approve the renewal of the contract every couple years since the original lease ran out.
In the past couple years the school has been thinking of finding a new home, a permanent home, this time. The options would be moving to an empty school or even into the School District Headquarters at 440 N. Broad Street.
Last month, April 2017, a flyer of the Student Union was passed around the students at SLA. It was stated that the school was “officially” moving, and there were rumors at the school about being moving to the empty Vaux High School building in Lower North Philadelphia.
In late April, the district informed SLA that they would like to do a last renewal before moving to a permanent location. They said it would be a 2-year-lease, it would expire in June 2020.
The vote meeting was scheduled for last week, but it was re-scheduled and planned for May 25th. Then, a few hours before the meeting, the district communicated to SLA that they only would be voting for a 1 year lease, contradicting their words from a few weeks ago. Finally, that is what they got. The SRC gave SLA the 1 year extension for the lease of the building.
Last year, at the meeting where SRC and SLA discussed about the future of the school, the SRC said they would give the school enough time to find a new home, but with the duration of the lease being shortened, the time to find a new building is shortened to.
Finally, on Thursday, May 25th, the vote meeting which decided the future of the location of Science Leadership Academy took place. Some students left with the teachers from school around 4:00 PM to go together to the meeting place, at the School District of Philadelphia (440 N. Broad Street).
Junior Tamir Harper, who was at the meeting, said “The meeting was long, it was hard, and it also upsetted me, it went as expected.”
Co-Principal Chris Lehmann explained: “SLA kids made their feelings known. It was important that students were there. They always support me with a degree of passion and energy they have for the school that is amazing. The students there took the opportunity they had to speak out about how important it’s the school for them.”
Lehmann acknowledged that the vote is a complicated issue, and remains hopeful for the future.
“Even if the results were not what we expected, we understand it, because the SDP is in a difficult financial crisis, and our lease is very expensive. Though, I have a lot of faith in the community to make sure that no matter where we end up we will remain the same and we will keep SLA as the transformative place it is.”
Harper also said: “It was tragic, because didn’t get the outcome we expected, but they did what they believed it was right. Even if the results were not what we wanted, we are not going to give up, we will continue fighting.”
Harper was happy with how SLA showed up to the vote.
“There was a lot of support from students who went to the SDP, of course Lehmann went too, and so did many teachers like Hull, Pahomov, and Kamal. After the meeting, SRC stated that they would work with us.”
Junior Kaamil Jones was one of the students who attended the meeting, and was inspired to speak before the SRC and give testimony as to why the vote should have been postponed.
“I think the amount of students that were there could have been more but we were also told last minute and it was benchmark season. It was a great turnout. I was kind of upset because of the results, but I feel like everything we fought for and said they didn’t care at all about that.”