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Ready or not, schools are back in session

In the aftermath of union negotiations and funding crisis, students returned to the classroom.

Mayor Nutter eats lunch with students at South Philadelphia High School. Charles Mostoller/METRO Mayor Nutter eats lunch with students at South Philadelphia High School. Charles Mostoller/METRO

Crawling with students and parents, South Philadelphia High School looked fat.

In the chaos of 24 school closures, several consolidations and reforms, South Philly High's student body doubled after it merged with Bok Technical High School.

In the aftermath of the budget cuts and some 3,000 layoffs, the high school didn't replace two retired guidance counselors.

South Philly High School Principal Otis Hackney's biggest challenge is adapting.

"Getting the ninth graders acclimated to high school, and simultaneously getting the students from Bok and South Philly to come together as one school" is the challenge," he said. "But we'll figure it out."

Students returned to class yesterday and found the classrooms they left behind had changed over the summer holiday.

Superintendent Hite said inside the cafeteria at South Philly High that he visited several schools yesterday and said, "For the most part, our students are excited to be back in school."

"Many of our schools have resources - hall monitors, security, cafeteria monitors - but, we don't have the staff we had a year ago and that's really important so there's still a lot of critical staff members that we need to add back when we get revenue," Hite said. "We need more counselors, we need more assistant principals, we need music to go all year, we need sports to go all year, and we need more teachers."

Mayor Michael Nutter visited the high school and said there are funding issues that need to be addressed.

"You can't do this on the cheap, and you can't balance budgets on the backs of students and teachers and administrators," he said, "So everyone has to put something in."

Standing amid a bloated caferia, Hite was asked if this school crisis will become the new normal for urban schools.

"We can not allow the city, the state, school district, anybody else to think that this is normal," he said. "Because our children now are in schools, that still need additional resources and it's real important for us during the course of this year to make sure those resources are returned."

Union negotiations


The union and the school district are still at the negotiating table, and there is still no resolution.

Superintendent William Hite said yesterday that negotiations are ongoing, but are happening with much more frequency.

The two sides spoke well went into Sunday night evening, "And now we're back at it today," Hite said. "Both sides are committed to finding a way to resolve this."

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan said negotiations were going, "slowly."

 
 
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