Andre Doyle, Cameron Booker, & Leticia Desouza
SLA and Ben Franklin began their co-location in the Fall of 2019 — but only this year have the two schools started to truly operate in the same space.
Not all of the facilities are used by both schools — most academic spaces are entirely separate. However, one of the stairwells as well as some of the common space on the first floor., including the smaller personal use bathrooms
The SLA side has two main stairwells, one is only used by the SLA student body and staff, and another one is used by both SLA and BFHS students. On the BFHS side similarly, they also have one individual stairway, and then the shared stairway.
For the most part, students do not encounter each other in the building. However, many SLA students have been reporting some issues when using these shared facilities.
SLAMedia spoke to multiple groups to get a complete picture of the situation.
SLA Student Opinion
In an anonymous survey on their experiences in the school stairwells, SLA students shared a wide variety of opinions and experiences.
As for which stairwell they prefer, there were mixed opinions: some students were fine with either, while others strictly preferred one stairwell over the other, for very different reasons.
Some problems that students have faced in the shared facility with BFHS students included being harassed, or catcalled in the shared stairway.
“ Most of the time, Benjamin Franklin students just stare at me awkwardly and they frequently harass me about something that I have on,” one survey respondent wrote.
Another student wrote, “ There were a lot of BFHS kids in the shared stairwell that are just there and who stare at girls when they walk by, not only that but there have also been many kids who bother other girls from SLA, catcalling. ”
However, there are also problems on the SLA-only side — the stairwell is frequently crowded or too warm.
“The heating there is really bad, it gets really hot in there,” one student wrote.
Another student stated, “ I do have a preference, which is the up only [SLA side stairwell]. But I won’t say I like using it because it’s like Center City Traffic trying to enter it. Plus with everyone packed together, it’s really hot in that stairway.”
Ben Franklin’s Assistant Principal Keith Pretlow described to SLAMedia that his school has the same setup as SLA — the shared stairwell, and one just for their students. He also described how the BFHS schedule sometimes leads to doubling up both schools on the stairs.
“ Benjamin Franklin Students have four classes a day, known as AB days. For example, Monday & Wednesday are the same for all students, with the same for Tuesdays, and Thursdays but on Fridays, they alternate classes.”
“Another fact about the schedule of Benjamin Franklin High School students is that all students have lunch in the third period, then they have the fourth period then they go home.”
When presented with the SLA student survey results, Assistant Principal Pretlow had no comment. He explained that his own experience with students from both schools has been positive. He believes that the shared space is a good thing and that much more would come for the two schools as they continue to thrive.
“ I love the kids, daily I have 10 – 11 SLA kids come in to just say hi, and I don’t mind because I think we have mutual respect and that’s going to allow space for the two schools to continue to grow together.”
“I think that it is an extra opportunity for different schools to come around, and grow, and mature together.”
He also states “All of the students are the same, and I believe that the students allow being around each other so we have to think of more ways of bringing both schools together in the shared space.”
When asked how can we improve the shared facility stated, he stated “ I believe that a lot of our students love the other side, and a lot of SLA students spend a lot of time in my office, even in the beginning kids have asked me who I was, and I said I was the campus principal.”
SLA Student Experience
“Basically I was in the hallways and I got stuck between the two doors, and this kid wouldn’t let me out of the doors because he kept asking me for my snap, until one of my friends came and opened the doors.”
If an SLA student is experiencing an issue, then the first person they report it to should be an SLA Administrator. So what is the system for dealing with harassment on school property?
SLA Climate Manager Tara Ryans explained that the school follows all bullying and harassment guidelines provided by The School District Of Philadelphia. The School District Of Philadelphia guidelines 248-249, state that “bullying and harassment will not be tolerated and that it can result in suspension or even expulsion of any curricular, extracurricular activities that are in any way involved with the school district.”
However, SLA doesn’t have any huge anti – bullying programs as of now, but despite that the behavior is still not tolerated.
She explained that it can be “ difficult for students to be identified and found out when these types of situations occur, due to students not coming forward about the situation and not being able to identify the students who did it.”
Ms. Ryans wanted to make it clear that any and all students who have had an encounter with other students can come to talk about the situation and receive full confidentiality.
“Any Student can come to me if they feel uncomfortable about anything that happens in the stairwell or the school. We want our students to feel safe and comfortable while they are at science leadership academy. ”