By Jenn Wright
Starting in September 2013, Science Leadership Academy is set to increase its student body from 500 to 625 on a new campus.
That’s just the beginning of a major venture to create a second campus of SLA, located at Beeber Middle School in the Wynnefield neighborhood of the city.
The new campus will begin the same way SLA began, first with only freshmen, and then adding students each year.
Beeber Middle School, which currently only occupies a part of their building and was recently removed from the district’s potential closure list, will share the space with SLA.
Principal Chris Lehmann said, “This represents an amazing moment in time for the school district to put a stake in the ground and say these are the kinds of schools we value.”
For all intents and purposes, SLA-Beeber will function in the same way that SLA does now by maintaining the pedagogy that makes for the unique environment. The process for admission will also remain the same, with one central interview process to attend school at either building.
For next year, the freshman class of the SLA-Beeber campus will consist of students who are currently on the waiting list to join the class of 2017. The faculty will be completely new as well.
This announcement comes in the wake of the bleak budget announced by the Philadelphia School District last Thursday, as well as the scheduled closure of 24 district schools at the end of this year.
SLA-Beeber won’t have any extra start-up money from the District, but the expansion is being supported by a 1.9 million grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership. The grant will allow the school expansion to begin with a new faculty, but revised from original projections.
“In a perfect world,” Principal Lehmann said, “we wouldn’t be doing this a time when we had such budgetary challenges, but at the same time that doesn’t change the fact that there are literally hundreds of children who wanted spaces that we could not offer.”
SLA is one of three schools receiving a total of 6 million in grants from PSP for next year. The other schools are Hill Freedman Middle School, expanding as a high school, and The Workshop School, an expansion of a project-based alternative senior year program called Sustainability Workshop.
The Philadelphia School Partnership’s press release said they, “selected the schools for investment after a thorough due diligence process focused on academic outcomes, leadership quality, and capacity for growth.”
This is the first time PSP is working with schools in the Philadelphia School District, formerly only investing in charter and parochial schools
As for the partnership with The Franklin Institute, Principal Lehmann told SLAMedia that “both schools will see a change in the way we do Wednesdays at the Franklin.” He spoke of TFI’s excitement and their enthusiasm in seeing the reach of SLA expanding.
Other opportunities to collaborate and still be unified as one Science Leadership Academy take shape using the technology SLA students are familiar with, like sharing things over Moodle and potentially doing joint projects.
This expansion has not yet been revealed to current students at SLA, but Principal Lehmann anticipates that they will be excited — especially by the fact that SLA will now have a home gym to play in at SLA-Beeber.