With Philadelphia School Partnership Grant, The Sustainability Workshop to Expand Into Full High SchoolBy Andy Sharpe |
The Sustainability Workshop proves that high school seniors are never too young to learn about environmental friendliness.
The program, which is based at the eco-friendly Navy Yard, has taught a select group of South Philly high school seniors the virtues of living and acting sustainably.
However, the Workshop is set to morph into a full high school as soon as the 2013-14 school year with a $175,000 Philadelphia School Partnership incubation grant. While much still has to be decided, the Workshop’s educators are looking forward to being able to reach a much wider net of students.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Sustainability Workshop’s expansion is whether it will function as a public or charter school, according to Michael Clapper, a co-founder and social studies instructor at the school. Clapper emphasizes that the “complicated political landscape” around education in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia makes it difficult to predict what kind of school they’ll be. He’s also not sure how many students the school will be able to accommodate for the 2013-14 school year. This might be a “slow growth into a full high school,” says Clapper. He elaborates that the school might start off with 160 students, and expand to 300 students for subsequent years.
Undoubtedly, the enlarged Sustainability Workshop will continue to offer the project-based learning it has excelled at. “For example, this year students identified inefficient incandescent lighting, a lack of affordable energy efficient housing, energy loss in our school, [and] a lack of fresh, affordable food for students as issues to take on,” says Ann Cohen, who coordinates communications and external partnerships for the school. This approach compels students to read and write frequently, and motivates them to ask questions, continues Cohen. Even though the size of the student body will increase, this strategy will likely stay the same.
The $175,000 will merely go to the capital costs of a full high school, meaning the Workshop still needs to find funding sources for the operating budget. This includes money to pay teachers and purchase supplies. While no sources are etched in marble, the school will continue to rely on donations from the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB), the Barra Foundation, the Fels Fund, State Farm, Cigna, Accenture, Ace Group, and others, mentions Cohen. Clapper adds that his school continues to seek federal grants and individual contributions.
The Philadelphia School Partnership is unequivocal that The Sustainability Workshop is a worthwhile incubation grant recipient. “The leaders of the Sustainability Workshop are running a successful pilot and they are all very experienced and accomplished educators,” points out Jessica Pena, director of the Great Schools Fund, which administers grants for the Partnership. She delves into detail when she says “successful” by citing the 93% of program participants who went on to higher education.
The Sustainability Workshop’s grant is just part of the $3.825 million in grants the School Partnership doled out through the Great Schools Fund this summer. The biggest grant recipient is String Theory Schools, which will be awarded $2 million to transform Frankford’s struggling Edmonds Elementary into a Renaissance charter school. The Fund has also devoted $1.3 million to the Catholic-run Cristo Rey High School, which opens for low-income pupils this month on North Broad Street. Finally, Center City’s Freire Charter School will receive $350,000 to establish a middle school. Freire has been inculcating youth from limited-income families since 1999.
The Partnership offers three types of grants in its Great Schools Fund. The preliminary grants are known as “incubation grants,” which go to support initial planning efforts of schools. The Workshop has been selected for one of these grants. The second kind of grants is “start-up grants,” which support the purchase of a building, the hiring of teachers, and the stocking of supplies. The third variety of grants is “growth grants,” which are awarded to successful full-fledged schools to support the opening of new schools or the expansion of existing institutions. Pena is eager to highlight that her organization is still accepting and analyzing grant applications for this year.
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