Girard College delays plan to suspend high school, residential living

girard college
Girard College.
Credit: Wikipedia / Bruce Andersen

The temporary suspension of Girard College’s high school and residential living programs has been delayed.

The Board of Directors of City Trusts on Monday approved a one-year postponement in the scaling back of operations at the historic institution, which has since 1848 operated as a free boarding school in North Philadelphia for low-income children from single-parent families.

The Board earlier this year approved a plan to by September 2014 temporarily scale back Girard to an extended day, non-residential school for grades 1 through 8.

Claiming financial challenges were threatening to permanently close Girard College, the Board cited pressing infrastructure issues, including a projected $111 million needed in long-term renovations to extend the life of the aging campus buildings.

They further pointed out the Girard Residuary Fund trust that subsidizes the school’s operations lost nearly a third of its value during the economic recession.

The Board said the suspension of Girard’s high school and residential programs would allow time for the trust to grow back to full financial health.

But the Orphans’ Court of Philadelphia still must approve those proposed changes.

In light of the ongoing court proceedings, the Board decided to delay the plan’s implementation until September 2015 in order to ease uncertainties, according to a release.

“We respect the right of the Orphans’ Court to take the time it needs to consider the petition and the temporary changes that the Board has proposed,” Board president Ronald Donatucci said in a statement.

“But while that process continues, it inevitably creates a sense of uncertainty and tension about the future for our students, their families, and our faculty and staff.

“They remain our highest priority as we move forward. The Board felt an obligation to address these uncertainties by delaying the implementation of the proposed change for one year.

“Our decision is to extend the school in its current format – as a grades 1-12 boarding school – to provide additional time for an informed decision about the future of Girard College.”

The decision also includes a provision allowing Girard’s current sophomores, who will graduate in 2016, to remain enrolled in an extended-day, non-residential program during the 2015 through 2016 school year so they can earn a Girard diploma.

“We greatly appreciate the Board’s decision because it will help to ease the concerns of our students, families and our colleagues,” Girard President Clarence D. Armbrister said in a statement.

“While we await the decision of the Court, there is no question that this is the right thing for all of us in the Girard Family.”

The Board again stressed the proposed reforms now slated for 2015 are temporary.

“That objective has not changed at all,” Donatucci said.

“The Board is committed to keeping Girard College open and in operation on its historic campus, and that it will grow back as a grades 1-12 boarding school at some point in the future, as soon as the Estate’s finances allow it.”


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