Parkside Education: Update

by Michael Burch

This article is a follow up to the discussion in the September issue of the Journal concerning “Education in Parkside.” Although Parkside has lost the long standing Leidy school due to budget cuts, our neighborhood is fortunate to have many other good schools within walking distance of one another. School choices in Parkside include Blankenburg Elementary, Global Leadership Academy, and The School of the Future. Now we can add two new schools to that list: Discovery Charter School (DCS) and the Kipp Dubois Collegiate Academy.

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 4.33.43 PMAlthough the Discovery Charter School has been in Parkside for eleven years, the school has recently moved to a larger (and better equipped) facility on Belmont Avenue. The community was very supportive of this move, although there were some initial traffic flow problems. After DCS opened this September at its’ new location, commuting problems immediately developed. Traffic was congested near the school during morning drop off and afternoon pick up times. It was challenging and problematic transporting over 760 students in and out of the facility each school day. Excited parents parked in no parking zones, at bus stops, in the middle of the street, and even in front of the Fire station.

It was not surprising that neighbors living close to the school were very concerned and upset about this.┬áTo the credit of Discovery Charter School, the school’s leaders were very willing to meet with neighbors to discuss the situation. Public meetings were held with staff members, area residents, parents, fire and police officials. A solution to the school transportation problem was developed and implemented and now traffic flows in a relatively normal manner along Belmont Avenue during drop off and pickup times.

The Journal feels that this shows that Discovery Charter School plans to continue being the good neighbor it has been in Parkside over the past eleven years. A key factor about the DCS has been its’ basic educational philosophy in which its’ students have been seen as children of the world. With that philosophy in mind, an important goal of the school has been to extend the horizons of its’ students far beyond the confines of the traditional classroom. Students have had the opportunity to travel far beyond the immediate Parkside region and enjoy cultural events and institutions in cities like New York and Washington, D.C. The Discovery Charter School also sponsors biannual international trips for its senior students.

In the past, seventh or eight grade classes have traveled as far away as South Africa and Spain. This school year, the school plans to take a class to Germany. These ambitious and enriching travel experiences give these young people an opportunity to develop an international perspective they would not ordinarily have had

The second (and newest) school welcomed to our area is the Kipp Dubois Collegiate Academy. Kipp is part of a national system of 141 charter schools from across the country. The Kipp system is a national network of free open enrollment college preparatory public charter schools with a positive record of preparing students for college who live in underserved communities. There are four Kipp schools in Philadelphia; Kipp Dubois is the first high school Kipp has opened in the city.

Recently I visited the school and met with the founding principal Mr. Arron Bass. He gave me additional information about the school. They have been in Parkside at this location since August of this year. Currently they have 465 students enrolled and plan to have 565 students next year. They are an open enrollment school and take students from all over the city. Somewhat like Discovery School they also have a global view of educating students. They have already taken a class of students to Ghana and they plan more international trips in the future. Like most charter schools they are a lottery based school. While at the school I met with several of their students and took a short tour of a few classes. All the students I talked to had college plans in their future. I saw real education going on in the classrooms. Mr Bass informed me that they have partnerships with over 30 colleges and universities that work with them and accept Kipp graduates.

The Journal will endeavor to keep the community informed about the schools mentioned and about Discovery and Kipp in particular.

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