The Philadelphia school board voted Thursday to sell a vacant school to a company working with the KIPP charter network after adding a provision to guard against a developer flipping the property.
While the School District had recommended the sale of the former John Whittier School to MIS Capital to be renovated into a new campus for KIPP, several board members questioned whether the agreement would prevent the property from being resold. Still, they voted to approve the sale with amended language to give the district the right to buy back the building if it was no longer being used for education.
The board also approved new modular classrooms for two overcrowded schools, more money for the School District’s fundraising arm, and five-year renewals for two charter schools.
Here’s what you need to know from the board’s first meeting since June.
Turning over a building to KIPP
The John Whittier School in North Philadelphia has been vacant since 2013, when it was closed by the former School Reform Commission. It was listed for sale in 2014.
This year, the district “received a very competitive offer" from KIPP to buy the property at 26th and Clearfield Streets, said Danielle Floyd, the district’s chief of operations. The charter network, which has six schools in the city, wants to move KIPP Philadelphia Preparatory Academy there from 16th and Cumberland Streets, where it’s currently sharing space with its newest school, KIPP North Philadelphia.
Several board members initially voted to hold off on the sale after member Angela McIver questioned whether the building could be sold to developers, and then “the district is out of a school.” After meeting privately with counsel, the board returned and approved the sale for $775,000 to MIS Capital, but with a buy-back provision. The vote was 6-1, with McIver opposed.
More space at Meredith, Mayfair schools
To combat overcrowding, the board voted in favor of installing modular classrooms during the coming school year at Meredith Elementary in Queen Village. It also approved temporary units at Mayfair Elementary, where a 14-classroom unit is slated to arrive in November.
The four modular classrooms at Meredith will hold an additional 120 students, at a cost of $895,000, according to the district.
The classrooms will provide “some necessary breathing room,” said parent Gregory Duffy, who asked the board to approve the purchase. The district has been sending kindergartners in the Meredith catchment who don’t win a seat through the lottery to nearby Nebinger — bumping students who believed they had a place there.
The overcrowding is among the issues the district plans to address in a four-year review of its current school programs and buildings, announced in May.
More money for the Fund for the School District
The board approved an additional $200,000 for the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, increasing its contract to $1,040,000. The five-year contract runs through June 2020.
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said the money would allow the fund to raise more money, in part by opening up discussions with national foundations. The fund, a not-for-profit led by Donna Frisby-Greenwood, has raised nearly $16 million for the district over the past four years, Hite said.
Renewals for charter schools
The board also granted five-year renewals to KIPP DuBois and Inquiry charter schools. Inquiry is part of the Belmont charter network, which has been seeking to buy a building its other charter leases from the district.
The board pulled that sale from its agenda in June, citing concerns about a legislative change that appeared to benefit Belmont. On Thursday, it approved giving Inquiry an additional 28 seats, up from 275.