New students will have to attend the nearby Lea School, which lacks the resources of Penn Alexander and has lower test scores and a shabbier building. One neighborhood group is trying to bolster Lea and Alexander Wilson, another school in West Philadelphia, but its efforts are just beginning.
This puts many parents in a bind, to say the least.
Late last month, the neighborhood Spruce Hill Community Association passed a resolution that said, "Any child living in the catchment area has the right to attend Penn Alexander and should have that right guaranteed from first through eighth grade."
That's easier said than done, of course.
But the group pleaded its case in a letter to Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman and Penn president Amy Gutmann.
Association officials pointed out that the partnership between the district and Penn had transformed their neighborhood, which has been "enlivened by hundreds of new families who have made a personal commitment to support the highest ideals of education."
They said they realized their request raised questions about available classroom space.
"However," they wrote, "space should be found. Families have made commitments to this neighborhood based on the belief that their children could someday attend a first-rate elementary school."
They told Ackerman and Gutmann that families who had been looking to move to the neighborhood for the school had been "making decisions not to move here." They said parents had turned to their group for help.
Spruce Hill Community Association president Mark Wagenveld (who is a former editor at The Inquirer) says the group has not heard back from Ackerman or Gutmann.
"We haven't gotten an official response as yet," Wagenveld said, "but we know that Penn is very concerned about this situation and is also hearing from parents who work at Penn."