Two days before the School Reform Commission was scheduled to vote on closing Beeber Middle School, parent Katherine Stokes' phone rang.
Beeber had been spared.
Bowing to concerns about safety and a lack of choice for families, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. rescinded the recommendation Tuesday. Officials will instead work with the community to explore developing an arts academy to attract more students to the school.
"We're just utilizing the recommendations that the community put forward," Hite said. "We think that input is important, and we value that process."
The superintendent said he began to rethink the Beeber closing after a community meeting at the school last month.
"There were valid points and concerns made," Hite said.
It has been a roller-coaster ride for Beeber, which was not on the Philadelphia School District's initial closing list but was put on a revised list, along with M.H. Stanton Elementary School in North Philadelphia.
The Stanton vote will go forward at Thursday's SRC meeting.
Now a school for sixth to eighth graders, Beeber will henceforth house seventh and eighth graders only. Nearby Overbrook Elementary will become a K-6 school.
Beeber's declining enrollment and an overabundance of district seats in the immediate area had been cited as the reasons for closure. The district's money problems - it faces a structural deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars - also factored in to the attempt to shut Beeber, at 59th Street and Malvern Avenue.
The 287-student school, formerly on the state's "Persistently Dangerous" list, has also struggled with academics.
But Beeber's community mounted a fierce defense of its school, whose students would have been sent to nearby Overbrook High School. They had formulated a counterproposal to the district's closing plan.
At the formal school closing hearing for Beeber last week, SRC members raised questions about the logistics of moving middle school students to a high school. And they seemed wary of a staff plan to force Beeber students to go to Overbrook.
If the only path for Beeber students was Overbrook, that would be a "huge step backwards" in terms of choice for families, SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos said at the meeting.
Stokes, whose daughter is in seventh grade, had major concerns about not having a choice about where to send her daughter in the fall. The district had few answers about what would happen to the Beeber students at Overbrook, whose longtime principal is retiring at the end of the year.
Stokes said she was also afraid for her daughter's safety. Those concerns heightened on Thursday, when 17-year-old Overbrook student Bernard Scott was shot and killed on his way home from school.
After Scott was shot, Stokes said, she called the SRC office every half-hour.
"I said, 'What are you going to tell me when that happens to my child?' " she said. "That's the exact path my daughter would walk home from school; they wanted to put our children in a more dangerous situation."
Hite said in an interview that the shooting was a tragedy, but that plans were already under way to save Beeber when Scott was killed.
"We had already begun to rethink the recommendation for Beeber," he said. "That had very little to do with it."
Beeber teacher Samuel Reed III said he was proud of the way the community came together, rallying to not just protest closing the school, but also coming up with the school-led turnaround idea.
"The district didn't have a clear plan," Reed said. "This just didn't pass the test."
When Beeber's principal told teachers at the end of the day that the school would remain open, "people were happy, grateful," Reed said, "but we said, 'OK, what are the next steps? We still have a lot of work to do.' "
Key to bolstering Beeber, Reed said, will be attracting more resources - perhaps through grant funding - and keeping the community's momentum going.
The Rev. Stephanie Wilson, a former Beeber teacher whose grandchild now attends the school, shouted with joy when she heard the news.
But she's realistic, Wilson said. The district still has big money problems, and Beeber is a mostly empty building with a long road ahead.
"I'm not so sure that this is a permanent reprieve," Wilson said. "But we will do the work. And with everything else that's going on, it's nice to hear some good news."