Planned cuts to magnet school busing upset parents

Students, parents from GAMP school protest plans to end busing to the school. Marching band played out front of the School Board building to be part of protest of the SRC. Wednesday, October 17, 2012. GAMP Principal Dr. Jack Carr addresses the SRC. ( STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer )
Students, parents from GAMP school protest plans to end busing to the school. Marching band played out front of the School Board building to be part of protest of the SRC. Wednesday, October 17, 2012. GAMP Principal Dr. Jack Carr addresses the SRC. ( STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer ) (Steven M. Falk)
Posted: October 18, 2012

Girard Academic Music Program, the elite magnet school in South Philadelphia, draws students from all over the city.

Getting accepted to extremely competitive GAMP, the acronym by which it is better known, is no easy task. Of the 1,000 students who applied to the 5th-through-12th grade school last year, 250 were invited to audition for 66 slots.

Attending the school at 21st and Ritner Streets is simple, however, thanks to busing for grades 5 through 8.

That will change next fall. The school district has told parents that the busing will be eliminated. Facing a huge deficit and struggling to find budget cuts, district officials say that cutting the bus service to GAMP and two other schools could save as much as $1 million a year.

The children at GAMP can use SEPTA TransPasses like most other district students, district officials said. Students who were enrolled in GAMP as of last year will be "grandfathered" with bus service until they reach the 9th grade.

Upset parents told the School Reform Commission at its meeting Wednesday that cutting the bus service would be a hardship and a safety issue for the students.

Fifth graders who are 10 or 11 carrying expensive instruments on SEPTA buses and subways would be tempting targets for criminals, parents said.

Gwen Deveaux-Way, 63, said her 11-year grandson, who started attending this year, would have to take three buses to and from school.

"Please allow my grandson a seat on the bus. Don't throw him under the bus," she pleaded.

Commission Chair Pedro A. Ramos said the district faces a budget problem and needs to find cuts, but he did not slam the door shut on buses for GAMP.

"I'm sure this will not be the last time we're talking about this," Ramos told the parents.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard said that the bus service was a legacy of a desegregation case. The consent decree in that case was ended in 2009, Gallard said.

Jerrold Hill, 47, who has an 11-year-old son at GAMP, said after the meeting that the school would suffer from a greatly diminished pool of applicants were the busing cuts to go through.

"It's going to terribly alter the character of the school," Hill said.

GAMP would become a neighborhood school, he said, "instead of a citywide magnet drawing the best of the best."


Contact Robert Moran at 215-854-5983, or bmoran@phillynews.com, or follow @RobertMoran215 on Twitter.

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