School District asks high court to OK sale of Wm. Penn High

Posted: August 06, 2014

The Philadelphia School District has asked the state Supreme Court to swiftly reject a lawsuit that aims to block the sale of William Penn High School to Temple University.

The cash-strapped schools desperately need the $15 million from the sale of the North Philadelphia property, according to court documents the district filed last week. The district's deficit - which already stands at $81 million - would grow by $11 million without the net proceeds from the sale.

"Any delay in closing the sale and receiving these funds will harm the School District greatly," the district said in a court filing that asks the justices to act on the matter "as soon as reasonably possible."

The request came in response to a suit filed three weeks ago by the William Penn Development Coalition, a neighborhood group that opposes the sale.

The group, which bid $5.1 million for the 14-acre site, has asked the court to stop the sale to Temple and rule that the "expedited process" the School Reform Commission followed when it approved the sale in June violated state law.

The SRC previously voted to suspend parts of the state school code to speed the sale and deal with the financial crisis.

In its response, the district said the sale was lawful. The SRC had held a hearing in 2009 before it voted to close the building "for at least two years," the district said.

At that time, Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman told neighbors the district would reopen the building within five years as a career and technical school for district students. In the face of deteriorating finances, the district said it could not afford to make the necessary repairs and upgrades.

The school is one of several unused buildings that the district has put on the market to raise revenue.

The district said the SRC was ready to complete the sale to Temple, but the university's title insurer has refused go to closing while the coalition's petition is pending in court.

The coalition's plans called for mixed-use retail and an academy focused on math, science, technology, and engineering.

Temple said it intends to use the property for athletic fields and recreation space for its students. The university said the building fronting North Broad Street would house a union-run job-training academy.


martha.woodall@phillynews.com215-854-2789   

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