When another 22 public schools go vacant in June, many of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable neighborhoods are likely to be faced with yet another big empty building – the kind of building that has historically fostered blight. For the people who live in these neighborhoods, it can feel as though they have no power to do anything about it.
AxisPhilly and NBC10.com want to help.
AxisPhilly, in partnership with NBC10, Plan Philly and The Notebook, has launched schoolhousewatch.org, a community-building project designed for people who want to have a say in what happens next, and to help build a future for buildings they’ve always known as their neighborhood schools. Other partners include PlanPhilly and The Public School Notebook.
At Schoolhouse Watch, anyone with a stake in the outcome can get extensive information about each closing school, share their ideas on the future uses of the buildings, and comment on the ideas of others. Schoolhouse Watch is a place where conversations can take place and innovation can be shared. As the buildings are put on the market, and developers express interest, Schoolhouse Watch will be an important hub for information about how development ideas intersect or collide with community concerns. More importantly, it will be a place where problems can be identified and solutions can be offered.
Solomon Jones, senior writer at AxisPhilly, is heading up the project.
“Far too often, our communities have had decisions imposed on them. Through Schoolhouse Watch, I want to give Philadelphians a chance to have a real and meaningful seat at the table. I want to give them a chance to make decisions, instead of just living with them.”
To facilitate discussion offline, Schoolhouse Watch and AxisPhilly will host a series of events in the communities affected by school closures.
Jones moderated the first of these forums, co-hosted with NBC10, at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown on Friday, April 19, with a panel of community leaders and industry experts to help facilitate a discussion in the community on the future of the Germantown High School building.
We'll announce in the coming days where and when the next forum will take place.
Whether you live in one of these communities, or you’re just someone who cares, come and be part of the conversation. Because without a shared effort by all involved, the schools now slated to close can too easily become yet another overwhelming burden on already struggling communities. And because, as Jones points out, “they have belonged to the community for so long, they should continue to belong to the community going forward.”