Philly School District Picks New Locations for Benjamin Franklin High School and the Science Leadership Academy After Asbestos Closed Building

Benjamin Franklin High School and SLA students will begin classes at their new locations on Monday

What to Know

  • Weeks after asbestos forced students of two Philadelphia high schools from their shared building, we now know where classes will resume.
  • Benjamin Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy students will be relocated to three separate buildings.
  • Students will begin classes at their new locations on Monday.

School district headquarters, a synagogue and a former charter school are going to be the temporary home for students forced out of their shared Philadelphia high school building by asbestos.

After more than two weeks of uncertainty, we now know the new locations for Benjamin Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy students.

Benjamin Franklin High School will be moved about three miles up North Broad Street to the former site of KHEPERA Charter School, 926 West Sedgley Avenue at a cost of $75,000 per month. The location is not far from the Allegheny stop of the Broad Street Line subway and can house the entire high school community.

SLA is using a Center City campus model that relocates students a short distance to school district headquarters at 440 North Broad Street and to the other side of Broad Street to Congregation Rodeph Shalom, at a cost of about $80,000 through December.

Philadelphia School District superintendent William Hite made the announcement, which was based on recommendations from the Ben Franklin-SLA Task Force, at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

The task force formed after asbestos was discovered during the broad-scale construction of the new $37 million Ben Franklin-SLA campus.

"In an abundance of caution, we needed to temporarily relocate each school while the remaining construction is completed," Hite said.

Students and teachers will report to the new locations on Monday. The district is still determining a plan for covering missed instructional times.

About 1,000 students, who have remained out of classes since late September, are impacted by the move.

"The Center City campus model will allow our students easy access to transportation and to their internship sites, while also staying close to the new shared campus," SLA principal Chris Lehmann said.

The two schools, which shared the Franklin High building at North Broad and Green streets, were closed "indefinitely" after exposed asbestos was found on Sept. 25 around air ducts in the boiler room.

The hazardous material was discovered during an environmental inspection carried out by the district and teacher's union, district officials said. The air was tested for asbestos fibers and additional ducts were checked. The district said fibers were discovered, but that testing came back within acceptable levels set by the Department of Health.

Asbestos removal work has begun in the boiler room after being completed in basement classrooms of the shared campus school at 550 North Broad Street, Hite said.

The new shared campus for Ben Franklin and SLA won't reopen until all repairs are made and approved, Hite said.

"We continue to work to get this right," he said.

Hite promised that all reports on the asbestos removal will be posted to the schools' website.

The union has called for the district to spend $100 million to make vital physical improvements to aging and neglected city school buildings across the city. They claim asbestos has been found in about 150 buildings in the school district.

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