Philadelphia House Delegation meets with members of Philadelphia City Council Committee on Education to discuss school facilities

Need for funding to renovate schools buildings and the urgency to improve communication between school districts, city council and legislative delegation focal points of meeting

PHILADELPHIA, May 1 – In light of yet another school closing due to environmental hazards, the Philadelphia House Delegation today announced that the institution held a discussion with the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Education to help address the school closings impacting hundreds of students.

The meeting was prompted after a sixth school building, Universal Vare Charter School, closed Friday after asbestos was found in the building. All affected schools have shifted to virtual learning. The finding comes as the result of a districtwide inspection prompted by the discovery of asbestos in Building 21, located in West Oak Lake. That building was shut down March 1.

Philadelphia House Delegation Chair Morgan Cephas said the delegation is concerned about the ongoing situation of schools having to close, and said the delegation considered the reunion the first step in evaluating strategies and prevention measures with the school district and the board of education.

Years of disinvested in the schools has led to this upsetting situation; underfunding has taken a toll on these buildings. This is disruptive and frustrating for the parents and students that now have been thrown into a state of disarray,” Cephas said.

 “We are proposing solutions, but we also have questions and concerns that we need to clarify before we go into budget negotiations. We must wonder, are there other schools slated to be closed? How many schools have been wrongfully categorized as ‘safe’?” she said. “As we move forward, we will be working closely with City Council, the School District of Philadelphia and the Mayor to develop as a path forward as we negotiate this year’s budget.

State Rep. Christopher Rabb praised the meeting and emphasized the need keep the discussions going with all involved parties for the benefit of the school system and the families affected.

Last Friday, the C.W. Henry Elementary School in Mt. Airy became the fifth school forced to closed because of asbestos; the school is located on Rabb’s district.

"It's incumbent on all local, state and federal stakeholders to come to the table to address this urgent matter to keep our school communities safe and supported while also tackling the structural issues that led to it," Rabb said.

State Rep. Regina Young offered her perspective of the crisis not only as a legislator, but also as a mother of two children in the School District of Philadelphia.

“I am greatly concerned about sending my children to school. I want to make sure that they are attending a safe space where their environment allows them to thrive academically and environmentally. I need for the system to operate with fidelity and transparency,” Young said.

Mitchell Elementary, located at 55th and Kingsessing, a school close to Young’s legislative district, had its students relocated to Morton McMichael Elementary for the rest of the school year for the same reason -- asbestos was detected in the building.    

“As a legislator, it becomes frustrating to engage the district because of the lack of transparency and accountability. One side of the aisle argues that more funds are needed whole the other side of the aisle argues that the funds are not regulated, yet neither side is wrong.

“While some of us are seeking fair funding, we should also ensure that these public dollars are used in a fiscally responsible way. It is not okay to make demands without accountability,” Young said.