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June 27, 2024

Philly to test leaving 25 schools open all year by adding optional summer programs

Students also can opt into enrichment programs that take place before and after class.

Education Schools
Philly Year Round School Michaela Althouse/PhillyVoice

Mayor Cherelle Parker details a new initiative that will keep 25 Philadelphia schools open throughout the year by offering optional summer programs. The schools also will offer enrichment programs before and after classes.

Students at 25 Philadelphia schools this fall can opt into enrichment programs that extend the school day and school year as part of a city initiative that aims to boost academic performance and offer additional child care options to parents.

The initiative, unveiled Thursday, gives the students access to additional learning opportunities before and after school, and during the summer. It being is jointly funded by the city and the School District of Philadelphia on an experimental basis, officials said. Community organizations that already have ties to the schools are being tapped to run the enrichment programs. 

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At a press briefing, Mayor Cherelle Parker stressed that the programs are optional for students and teachers. 

"The extended day pilot program is not changing the school calendar," Parker said. "It is not mandatory." 

The participating schools – 20 district schools and five charter schools – generally will offer educational opportunities from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every school day. The timeframe may differ slightly for some schools, Chief Education Officer Debora Carrera said. The schools also will be open during half days, and winter and spring breaks. A six-week program will be offered during the summer.

"Out of necessity, many of our families drop their children off before the school day begins," said Penny Nixon, superintendent of Universal Creighton Charter Schools, one of the participating schools. "The proposed 7:30 a.m. start time can accommodate those families. This new initiative would allow us to provide aggregated enrichment, rather than having scholars wait in the auditorium or in the lunchroom until the school day officially starts."

The participating schools are listed below in alphabetical order:

 District Schools  Address 
 Add B Anderson Elementary School   1034 S. 60th St.
 Alain Locke Elementary School 4550 Haverford Ave. 
 Edward Gideon Elementary School 2817 W. Glenwood Ave.  
Franklin S. Edmonds Elementary School  8025 Thouron Ave.  
 George Childs Elementary School1599 Wharton St. 
 John H. Webster Elementary School 3400 Frankford Ave.
 Joseph Greenberg Elementary School 600 Sharon Lane
 Joseph Pennell Elementary School1800 W. Nedro Ave. 
Juniata Park Academy  801 E. Hunting Park Ave.
 Laura Carnell Elementary School 1100 Devereaux Ave.
 Louis Farrell Elementary School 8300 Castor Ave.
 Overbrook Educational Center 6722 Lansdowne Ave.
 Richard R. Wright Elementary School2201 N. 28th St. 
 Samuel Gompers Elementary School5701 Wynnefield Ave. 
 Solomon Solis-Cohen Elementary School7001 Horrocks St. 
 Southwark Elementary School 1835 S. Ninth St.
 Thomas G. Morton Elementary School 2501 S. 63rd St.
 Thomas M. Peirce Elementary School2300 W. Cambria St. 
 Vare-Washington Elementary School 1198 S. Fifth St.
William Cramp Elementary School 3449 N. Mascher St. 

 Charter SchoolsAddress 
 Belmont Charter School 4030 Brown St.
Mastery Charter School at Pickett(Grades 6, 7 and 8 only)   5700 Wayne Ave. 
 Northwood Charter School4621 Castor Ave. 
 Pan American Charter School4621 Castor Ave. 
Universal Creighton Charter School 5401 Tabor Ave. 

The list of participating schools includes two district schools from each of Philadelphia's 10 council districts. Schools were selected based on various factors, including whether they had air conditioning to accommodate the summer program and ties to existing community programs, officials said. Many are part of the city's Community Schools initiative, which offers social services and other programs funded by the soda tax. Some were chosen because students in their neighborhoods are at higher risk for being involved in child welfare or the juvenile justice systems. 

The extended hours won't impact collective bargaining agreements with district teachers, Parker said, but teachers may participate in the programming. 

"We'll build a system and a structure that allows any of our teachers in the (Philadelphia Federation of Teachers), our union, if they want, to participate," Parker said. "But we didn't want anyone to say that we have forced without negotiating." 

Nyne Sellers, president and CEO of academic nonprofit Launch of Philadelphia, which afterschool programs at several district schools, said she supports the initiative. Though teachers don't have to participate in the initiative, she said she has seen some who enjoy working with students outside of class. And some like to earn extra income in the summer.

"Sometimes teachers like a little bit of extra money and a little bit of extra work, not mandatory, so it's optional," Sellers said. "But I do think sometimes people don't mind it, because they really love their students and they really want to support their community." 

Specific details on the enrichment programs were not released, but officials said educational topics may include financial literacy, coding, dance, chess, writing, life sciences and biotechnology. They may also include tutoring on the lessons students are learning in their academic classes.

The community organizations tasked with running the enrichment programs already help schools run tutoring services and clubs, or help with the city's Community Schools initiative. District Superintendent Tony Watlington said the city could tap industry experts and university leaders to assist, too. 

Parker and other officials declined to answer questions about the broader vision for the program, including whether this year's participating schools will be included in any subsequent years. They reiterated that the program is subject to change, if necessary. 

"This is a pilot program, we plan to use this year to understand what our communities need," Carrera said. "We want to talk to parents, talk to families and we have to talk to the students about their interests and develop new partnerships and also show our families what can be in order to enhance our enrichment offerings."