Wearing red T-shirts and bearing signs, about 50 students from Youth United for Change came out yesterday in hopes that the Philadelphia School Reform Commission would hire a developer to build a new Kensington High School.
They've been waiting for years.
But the commission delayed action again at its meeting. Officials said they were still trying to negotiate a deal with a developer.
"This is just another big disappointment," said Saeda Washington, 17, a senior who attends the Kensington School of Business, Finance and Entrepreneurship, one of three small Kensington high schools. "I don't think they really care."
School Reform Commission Chairman Sandra Dungee Glenn said the district likely would be ready to move forward next month.
She also said the district has zeroed in on a site for a new West Philadelphia High School - another project that has seen many delays. The site is bounded by 49th and 50th Streets and Market and Chestnut Streets, location of the old West Catholic High School for boys. The site is owned by the district. Two other district schools currently use the site and would have to be relocated.
Dungee Glenn said she sympathized with the Kensington students, but she noted that the district had faced complications in its capital program, from difficulty acquiring land to building consensus in communities. "I completely understand the students' concerns and dissatisfaction and sense of urgency," she said.
The district in 2005 divided Kensington into three small schools - one for business, one for creative and performing arts, and one for culinary arts - with plans to build a fourth.
Students said the new building is sorely needed to accommodate the program for the creative and performing arts, which now is housed in a 1920s building. Drama class is held in the auditorium, and there aren't facilities for a visual-arts program. Vocal- and instrumental-music education takes place in classrooms inadequate for instruction and practice.
When the performing-arts school moves into the new building, that space will house a social justice school.
At yesterday's commission meeting, students stood with signs that read "KHS?"
Andi Perez, one of the group's adult leaders, yelled out during the meeting after Dungee Glenn said the project would be considered next month. "I do not want to hold this project up . . . but we need to be sure we can take an informed action," Dungee Glenn said.
"With all due respect, we heard the same thing last month," Perez said from the back of the room.
"We waited five years," chimed in a student from the group, which empowers students to improve schools.
Patrick Henwood, who oversees the district's capital plan, said negotiations over seven months with a developer had fallen through and talks were under way with a new developer.
From the time a developer is selected, it will take about two years to build the school, Henwood said. The building will serve 400 children and is slated for a site at Palmer and Thompson Streets, he said.
Commissioner Martin Bednarek said he, too, was frustrated with the delays.
"I just don't think it's fair to keep holding this up," he said, drawing applause from the students.
Also yesterday, Tom Brady, the district's interim chief executive, said the district had sent teams into 10 of its 267 schools to deal with large class sizes. The district plans to reorganize or "level" classes based on enrollment by Sept. 30, he said.
Problems with class sizes may be reported to a district hotline, 215-400-4000.
Brady also said the district was responding to reports that some eligible students had not gotten free passes to ride SEPTA as promised by state and city officials recently. Some schools received more passes than needed; others not enough, he said. Problems with this program also may be reported to the hotline, he said.