The latest Lanning Square move, approved last week by the board and announced to teachers Wednesday, is part of the continuing downsizing of the district amid demographic changes. Last year, several other schools were closed and consolidated, including Creative Arts High School and Morgan Village Middle School.
The Parkside and Fetters Schools, where Lanning Square students were housed most recently, will not reopen this fall, bringing to seven the number of schools closed in the last three years.
The students and teachers from the two schools will be split between Whittier and Wiggins Schools.
"I've lost count of how many times we've moved Lanning Square," said Calvin Gunning, president of the principals' union. "I feel sad for those kids."
This will be the second time in a year that some of the Lanning Square students have changed schools.
No staff will be laid off, according to district officials.
Lanning Square Elementary closed in 2002 after engineers found the building to be structurally deficient. Students were temporarily moved into two 19th-century buildings, Broadway and Fetters, while the district and state worked on a replacement.
But the replacement project was put on hold, and Lanning Square students continued to go to the dilapidated Broadway and Fetters Schools.
After the August earthquake damaged the Broadway School, the Lanning Square students there were transferred to Parkside, about a mile away from their neighborhood.
"Kids are dodging bullets on their way to school, seeing dead bodies," said Lanning Square community activist Sheila Roberts, referring to violence in the area. "We need a neighborhood school."
The desire for a new neighborhood school has caused tension among residents.
Some continue to push for the state to build the promised public school for which $10 million has already been spent. Others, including Roberts, are pushing for the replacement school to be a Renaissance school, run by a nonprofit.
With Gov. Christie and others having endorsed the Renaissance idea, Roberts and others feel it would expedite construction.
Cooper University Hospital's charitable arm, the Cooper Foundation, is working on a plan to develop a Renaissance school at the Lanning Square site.
Mills' change in title follows his elevation from deputy superintendent after Bessie LeFra Young stepped down from the top post June 29. The board settled on Mills after failing to find an outsider to fill the post of interim superintendent.
Tuesday evening, board members decided it was best to focus on searching for a permanent superintendent rather than resuming a search for another interim leader.
If approved by the state, Mills would receive a $2,000 monthly stipend for his job, bumping up his salary to $187,200.
Mills said he did not know yet whether he would hire someone to fill the deputy superintendent role.
The next month will be a busy one as he works on the Lanning Square transition, with decisions pending on issues such as new school names and where to transfer the principal of Lanning Square now that the school is being merged with Wiggins and Whittier.
Four other principals also have to be transferred because of their schools' low academic achievement.
Teachers were called to a meeting Wednesday to discuss the plans. The reaction was mostly frustration, teachers' union president Laverne Harvey said.
"Teachers feel awful," Harvey said. "But they understand why. They know the kids are standing waiting for the bus on drug-war corners."
Contact Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @InqCVargas. Read her blog, "Camden Flow," at www.philly.com/camden_flow/