Kristen McKenna knew the parent organization she leads would have to bring their own cleaning supplies for its Martin Luther King Jr. Day service project at the Albert M. Greenfield School Monday.
But she was stunned when she got a $700 bill from the Philadelphia School District three days before the project to cover costs for staff and utilities.
“It’s Martin Luther King Day. Why wouldn’t you somehow want to encourage schools and communities to come together and do something good in your school?” said McKenna, president of the Greenfield Home and School Association, calling the charge “just infuriating.”
She said about 100 volunteers worked at the Center City K-8 Monday, painting its third floor, cleaning the building — “wiping down anything and everything the kids touch” — and picking up trash and leaves outside.
On Thursday, McKenna said, the district called the school, at 22nd and Chestnut Streets, saying it didn’t have to pay the bill. She wasn’t sure why the district decided to drop the charge, which The Inquirer began asking about Monday.
“That should have been the result” all along, McKenna said. “I’m very happy.”
District spokesperson Imahni Moise said the school board’s policy is that "any use of district facilities outside of normal business hours must be associated with a fee to cover expenses such as utilities and security.”
“However, we do realize that there may be some situations where charging a fee for use of our facilities is not necessary and this situation is one such case," Moise said Thursday. “We have been in touch with those entities that were charged to use district facilities for MLK Day of Service activities and informed them of our decision to not process any payments that were received.”
The district said six organizations were charged.
“Are you serious?” Shakeda Gaines, president of the Philadelphia Home and School Council, said Thursday after learning of the situation. She added that she’d never heard of the district charging school associations to use buildings on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The invoice the Greenfield association received Jan. 17 listed a $714 charge — $441 for staff, and $273 for utilities.
“We’re a very fortunate school that we had the money to pay, but I can’t imagine if a lower-income school suddenly found out” it owed this money, McKenna said.