On Wednesday February 27 parents and leaders from Juntos organized a protest to draw attention to the massive school closings using the unfair closing of Abigail Vare located in the neighborhood of Penn’s Port in South Philadelphia as an example of the district’s arbitrary decisions on the issue.
A crowd of about 100 people made up of Juntos’ leaders, Vare parents, school staff, students and community members gathered outside Vare Elementary School located in Moyamesing Street, between Tasker and Morris. The crowd protested against the merging of Vare with Washington and the closing of 29 public schools in the city. Vare is schedule to move their program to the George Washington Elementary School building the next school year.
“I’m here because I feel very upset about the district wanting to close our school and the other 28 public schools in the city because the district’s arguments are false. Because they say that Vare is an old building. It is one of the better schools in the area that just needs some repair work on the roof and in the boiler” said Patricia Rodriguez, leader of Juntos.
Rodriguez’s son, age 7, is in his last year of kindergarten and if Vare closes he would have to register at George Washington elementary schools which is located 12 blocks north and which would have to go walking alone risking his safety.
“The School District says they chose to close Vare because its building is old and in poor condition but instead the district’s website shows that the Vare building is one that is in the best condition in this area. In fact fixing Vare would cost $ 8,605,440 while schools in this area like Southwark will need $18,793,723 and
$12,971,107 for Sharswood ” said Martina Camacho, mother of a student enrolled in Vare.
In addition, Abigail Vare Elementary School has had constant enrolment, has made its AYP for the past years and has the best math scores in the neighborhood.
“We’re not here to say that Vare should remain open and other school should close. What we are say is that we do not understand why the district wants to merge Abigail Vare with Washington because they want to combine a good school with a school that needs support. By combining these two, you are taking the risk that the Vare program is going to decline and Wahington needs support instead of more kids and more problems”, said Adriana Arvizo, community organizer at Juntos.
In the end, Juntos’ leaders questioned the closing of Vare because it doesn’t meet the district criteria for closings whether there will be any interest in a piece of land in a gentrifying neighborhood.
Finally, Juntos’ leaders invited attendees to a mobilization to the School District building on March 7 at 3:30pm during the School Reform Commission final vote on the school closings.