Hello parents of Philadelphia,
Like most Philadelphians, I reacted with sadness to the wave of Catholic school closings announced last week. Too many people I know have been scrambling to find an alternative place to send their kids to school this upcoming fall, and I've been advising them as best I can, based on the knowledge I glean from working for the school district. I figured that I would share my list of recommendations on this forum, where there might be a few parents scrounging around for information. I have a selfish motivation, too, I suppose, in that I'd love to keep as many of these residents in Philadelphia as possible, lest they are thinking of a suburban relocation... anyway, here goes...
If your child went to Pope John Paul Regional....
you have several options. Your neighborhood public school (Bridesburg) is pretty good, usually testing just above state average (if you want a good example of a school district that functions at state average, think of Bensalem or Bristol Twp. schools). Of course, state average is far, far above city average. You could also apply to the new Franklin Learning Charter elementary, which just opened last year but seems to be as high-achieving as its high school equivalent. If you live on the other side of I-95, sadly, you're not zoned to Bridesburg Elem, but Philadelphia First Literacy Charter, located in your neighborhood, is also doing doing pretty well.
If your child went Our Lady of Consolation of Tacony, you're particularly lucky, because your can choose between two decent public schools: Disston, usually testing around state average, and Forrest, which usually tests quite far above. You also have the options of two really high-ranking charters: Planet Abacus and New Foundations (2010's highest-ranked school in Pennsylvania).
If your child went to St. William's, Crossan is a really good neighborhood school, one of the best in the NEast and thus all of Philly. Some of the area might be zoned to Hampton, which is also decent, if slightly less impressive than Crossan. If you don't live in the catchments, there are two charter gems both about two miles away, Tacony Academy in Rhawhurst (seems silly, doesn't it?) and Northwood Academy in Northwood to the south. Both test pretty highly, above state average.
Similarly, with our Lady of Ransom, Tacony Academy and Northwood are still pretty accessible. The neighborhood public school is Solis-Cohen, testing at just about state average, so they're not horrible, either. Some of the area might be zoned to the aforementioned Hampton. Some of the area may be zoned to Carnell or Spruance, however, which have been testing quite poorly recently.
If your child went to St. Laurentius, then your children are probably zoned to either Adaire or Hackett- both of which doing pretty well, above state average. They're both quite underenrolled and would love more students- both of them peaked at about 700 kids each in the early 90s and are both at around 450 today, meaning they could each absorb all of Laurentius' students. If your student is particularly gifted and in middle school, I would suggest a look at Conwell over in Kensington- a magnet middle that is perhaps the city's most unknown success story, with a 2008 Blue Ribbon.
If your child went to St. Bridget's in East Falls, as you probably well know, your neighborhood school, Thomas Mifflin, isn't too good. But just on the other side of the Wissahickon, Cook-Wissahickon still takes some kids out of catchment, and has been widely acclaimed-
Monica Yant Kinney: A city school success has parents working to save it - Philly.com
If your child went to Annunciation in South Philly, you may have heard the rumblings of improvement at Jackson, your neighborhood school. In 2005, the kids usually tested far below state average, and sadly, some of the 8th graders still do, testing 64% proficient in Math this year compared to 73% across the state. But compare them to the 3rd graders- which tested 94 % proficient compared to the state's 75%. Also, Christopher Columbus Charter's southern school, while not stellar, is still pretty decent, and is located just a block away at 13th St.
If your child went to St. Gabriels', try Independence Charter located in the Graduate Hospital right next to Grays' Ferry. Easily one of the best schools in the city, as well as the state.
If your child went to Epiphany or Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, your neighborhood schools- Abram Jenks and Francis Scott Key in the "Lower Moyamensing" neighborhood, and Sharswood in the "Whitman" neighborhoods, respectively, (although I've never met anyone who actually calls them that), are pretty decent- testing at about the state level.
If your child went to Sacred Heart, you may be in the Nebinger catchment, in which case you're lucky, because this school has rapidly become one of the best ones in the city and state recently- its 3rd graders tested 95% proficient in Math, 95% in Reading, and even 95% in Science- traditionally the district's blackest hole when it comes to test scores. They're still looking for out-of-catchment kids, from what I know. Here is a write-up of their success:
South Philadelphia: George W. Nebinger Weathered the Storm
So those are all the neighborhoods affected by school closure that benefit from having a well-positioned charter or public school. As for the other areas, sometimes there simply isn't a good school that comes to mind, or I just don't know the neighborhood well. But I hope this helps those on this forum looking for help, and I hope you forward it to anyone else you know that is scrambling for a school for their kids in the fall.
If you want to know what neighborhood school your children are zoned to, here is a useful overlay of the city:
Many of the charters have application deadlines soon, so I offer the websites of the charters I mentioned, where you can find the application.
Franklin Towne Charter Elementary School
First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School | Philadelphia Area Independent Charter School | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Planet Abacus Charter School
New Foundations Charter School
Tacony Academy Charter School | Philadelphia Area Independent Charter School | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Northwood Academy Charter*School ****** - About Us
Independence Charter School
Best of luck!
-Your friend at the District