Saturday, February 25, 2006

Regional Choice Policy Approved by SRC

The School Reform Commission ("SRC") has approved a significant change to school entrance policy. Traditionally, children within the immediate catchment area of a school have received priority and thereafter, any available openings allocated on a Citywide basis. The new policy reaffirms the right of parents to send their children to their neighborhood school if they live within the catchment area, but now gives second priority to families living within a newly created "Center City Academic Region". The new Center City academic region includes all downtown neighborhoods, plus several adjacent communities in North and South Philadelphia. The new policy, promoted by the Center City District as part of the Center City Schools Initiative, will take effect immediately and will be implemented in all other academic regions in the City. The goal of this new policy is to strengthen neighborhood schools by enhancing the bonds between community and school, to improve educational choices for all families, and to encourage more middle-class families to use and support Philadelphia’s public schools.

The East Falls School Committee believes this important systemic change should be embraced and the District should establish a policy that provides families with access to quality schools for their children that are as close to their communities as possible. There are a variety of reasons why this is a good policy, including the fact that proximity between families, students, and their schools fosters a sense of partnership and mutual accountability that is diminished if not eviscerated when students travel long distances to schools that their families never visit. When children are sent to remote communities that are logistically difficult to reach, participation in scholastic and civic life is difficult if not impossible due to the distance between home and school. Not to mention, the District incurs significant annual expenditures moving children to schools beyond their communities.

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