Press Pause on Lab Charter's relocation to East Falls
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Laboratory Charter School of Communication and Languages is requesting to move its 3 campuses (two in Overbrook and one in Northern Liberties) to 3300 Henry Ave. Laboratory intends to move to its new location in order to consolidate resources and enroll more students. The K-8 school would have a cap of 1,000 students.
Public was not formally notified but heard about this plan during the School Board meeting on 4/11/19; vote is scheduled for 4/25/19 despite this being in the works since October of 2018. If approved on 4/25, there is no way to appeal this any further.
We all agree that students deserve a quality education - one that empowers our youth in a safe and caring environment. However, upon review of Laboratory Charter, it’s clear that it does not hold a consistent track record when it comes to quality education. In fact, a recommendation of non-renewal of its charter has been issued in recent years.
So why, then, would the East Falls community want this charter to relocate into our neighborhood when it has not engaged the community, has a record of non-renewal, and has not conducted - to our knowledge - a traffic impact study?
In Philadelphia, it is a requirement that charter schools engage the local community and district-managed schools before moving in. Why then is a vote scheduled on April 25 for Laboratory Charter School of Communication and Languages to relocate to East Falls (3300 Henry Avenue) when there has been no outreach to the community and local public schools in the 19129 catchment, and the community only learned about this proposal by accident?
Should Laboratory Charter School of Communication get to forgo process? I stand with thousands of fellow neighbors, local businesses and public school staff who don’t think so, and ask that the vote scheduled for April 25 be postponed.
As a community member, I am concerned about the following consequences that would result from this charter relocating to East Falls:
TRAFFIC AND SAFETY: The impact of an additional 1,000 youth being transported to school each day on Henry Avenue, which carries 23,000 vehicles each day through East Falls, poses serious risks. Henry Avenue is already designated as one of the most dangerous thoroughfares in the 4th council district. With a singular exit and entrance into the driveway at 3300 Henry Avenue it’s not yet well understood how students, particularly very young students, will travel safely to and from school each day.
Here in Philadelphia, there were over 100 traffic deaths in 2018. Forty-two of those deaths were pedestrians and eight were children. Has the Charter performed a traffic study to analyze the impact this relocation will have on community and student safety? One should be completed and the results made public before a vote is held.
NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL IMPACT: Laboratory Charter School intends to service 1,000+ students at the new proposed campus in East Falls. Yet, it has only submitted 200 signed letters from current Laboratory Charter School parents who intend for their children to remain at Laboratory Charter once the move is complete. As our neighborhood school, Thomas Mifflin School makes extraordinary strides each year — including the most improved test scores in all of Northwest Philadelphia, award winning principal and teachers, and an incredibly engaged parent network — our community is deeply concerned about the impact to our local public school.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT: Currently, Laboratory Charter has three campuses that it plans to fold into one. It projects 1,000 new students needing transportation to the East Falls campus. Emissions from 1,000 passenger vehicles is the equivalent to 4,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere. Was an environmental impact study performed before deciding to relocate three campuses into one in East Falls?
For these reasons, we ask the School Board of Philadelphia to delay a vote on the proposed move of Laboratory Charter School to 3300 Henry Avenue until the aforementioned concerns can be properly addressed by the School Board.
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