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Longtime coach on Philadelphia school closings: 'It hurts'

Lurline Jones said Philadelphia high school athletics are already at their lowest point. On Thursday afternoon they received another blow.

Lurline Jones said Philadelphia high school athletics are already at their lowest point.

On Thursday afternoon they received another blow.

The Philadelphia School District announced plans to shutter eight high schools at the end of the school year. Two others will become part of other school districts, and two military academies will become one.

Included among the shuttered schools is University City, where as head coach Jones won 12 girls' basketball titles in 33 seasons, and Germantown, where Jones came out of retirement to coach the last three seasons.

"It hurts, it hurts. Because when you look at sports at the high school level its not always about playing the sports, but about having fun," said Jones, who said she believes that the closings won't actually happen, and that the announcements are a tool to galvanize the community.

Also included on the closure list are: Bok, Carroll, Douglas, Lamberton, Strawberry Mansion, and Vaux. Robeson would become part of Sayre; Communications Tech would become part of Bartram; and Leeds and Elverson military academies would become one academy.

Jones said athletics are at their lowest point because of a shortage of funding. A longtime advocate for girls' basketball, Jones said the closings take away the chances for girls to receive college scholarships.

"Three-hundred and fifty," Jones said. "That's how many we sent to college from UC. I'm not sure I'll be at Germantown that long, but we're working on it."

Instead of closing schools, Jones said the district should consolidate them.

At Bok, football coach and athletic director Frank Natale said he would attempt to move his entire program to another school. He said parents had already contacted him with hopes that it could happen.

The Wildcats have won five straight football titles - four in Class AA, and last month's Class AAA crown.

"I worry about establishing a tradition and then losing it," said Natale, who also teaches chemistry. "I don't want to be negative, I want to be positive and bring what we have here to somewhere else."

Natale said he sent six players to college last season on scholarship, including linebacker Robert Kralle, who earned a full ride to Bloomsburg.

The closing of Vaux will not affect the future of top boys' basketball recruit Rysheed Jordan, who is a senior. But sophomore Sammy Foreman, also a top basketball recruit, will be forced to look for a new school next year.

The guard transferred from the Haverford School earlier in the school year and is receiving Division I interest.

Longtime Strawberry Mansion boys' basketball head coach Gerald Hendricks said he had no idea his former school was going to close.

"I was proud of it," Hendricks said. "I think the school was a great place for the students and the community."

Hendricks retired in 2010 after 41 years in the district. He started at Mansion in 1980 and picked up 425 wins along the way.

In 2002, he captured his second league title behind senior guard Maureece Rice, whose 2,681 career points ranks him as the city's all-time scoring leader.

Last Bell?

School District of Philadelphia high schools recommended for closure in June:




Strawberry Mansion




University City


Communications Tech

(Elverson and Leeds will merge.)