Parents and pupils worried about Philadelphia school closings take their concerns to City Hall

Khyrie Brown, 12, a seventh grader at L.P. Hill Elementary School in Strawberry Mansion, reads a letter he wrote asking Mayor Nutter to halt the closure.
Khyrie Brown, 12, a seventh grader at L.P. Hill Elementary School in Strawberry Mansion, reads a letter he wrote asking Mayor Nutter to halt the closure. (KRISTEN A. GRAHAM / Staff)
Posted: December 30, 2012

What do students from L.P. Hill and Duckrey Elementary Schools - two among the 37 Philadelphia School District buildings slated for closure in June - think about officials' decision to shutter their schools?

"I feel down," said Shemar Bates, 11, a sixth grader at Duckrey, in North Philadelphia on the edge of Temple University's campus. "I feel shocked. I don't want them to close my school."

Shemar was one of a handful of students, parents, and members of the community organizing group ACTION United who met at City Hall on Friday, hoping to hand-deliver petitions and dozens of letters directly to Mayor Nutter. They want the mayor, governor, School Reform Commission, and anyone else with clout to listen and, they hope, intervene to halt school closings.

ACTION United is part of the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, which has urged the district to impose a moratorium on school closings while an impact study is conducted. The closings would disproportionately affect poor and minority students, they say.

Neither the mayor nor any of his top officials were in their offices, the community members were told, so they chose to take their letters home. Shemar's mother, Danita Bates, said she would organize a field trip for North Philadelphia schoolchildren to return, because the children want to speak to the mayor directly.

Even though they did not meet Nutter, four students read their letters out loud, standing in the hallway outside the mayor's office.

"Please, Mayor Nutter, think of us as your own children," said Khyrie Brown, 12, a seventh grader at L.P. Hill in Strawberry Mansion. "Don't forget, we all have dreams."

His cousin Amani Bassett, 8, a third grader at L.P. Hill, stuck a red heart sticker on her letter - written in bright blue and pink gel pen - for maximum effect.

"Please don't close my school because I like my teacher," Amani asked the mayor. "She is nice, and I get all A's and B's."

Among the other sentiments expressed in the sheaf of letters written to Nutter and others:

"I think you should save our school," one Duckrey student wrote. "I think this is because our school is a part of my family history."

Another student went for the really, really polite approach:

"Pretty please with a cherry on top, do not close Duckrey," she wrote.

Dawn Hawkins, Khyrie's mother, said she worried what would happen if Hill students were forced to cross dangerous territory to go to Ethel Allen, Blaine or Wright.

"This one fighting that one, this one doesn't like that one," Hawkins said. "It's going to cause so much chaos in our neighborhood."

Community hearings will be held over the next few months before the SRC votes on the closures in March.


Contact Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146, kgraham@phillynews.com or on Twitter @newskag. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at www.philly.com/schoolfiles.

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