When protesters upset over the closing of the M.H. Stanton Elementary School blocked the intersection of Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue they endured jeers and shouts from motorists inconvenienced by the demonstration.
Police had blocked off the right side of Broad Street in order to give the protesters a safe place to demonstrate. The crowd held signs and roared chants of “save our schools!” reacting to the April 25 vote by the School Reform Commission to shutter Stanton located on North 16th Street a few blocks from the protest site.
“Closing down these schools shuts down a lot of opportunities for our young people,” protester Jessica Soto said. “We need our public schools and can’t shut them all down.”
Tracy Lestor, who is the president of a parent involvement group that operates within the area, organized the protest. “Our mission is to help the children anyway we can,” Lestor said. “We’re here to keep Stanton open. Even though they made the decision to close, I think they made the wrong decision.”
Another protester, Yvette Jones, said, “M.H. Stanton has had a distinguished history of academic excellence. They even made a documentary about the school that won an Academy Award.”
The movie Jones referenced was the 1993 I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School. This film won the Best Documentary Feature category.
When the SRC voted March 7 to close 23 schools, including four elementary schools in North Central Philadelphia, Stanton’s future was postponed to a later vote that occurred one day before the protest.
“Stanton was not even on the list to begin with,” Lestor said. “And the SRC has yet to properly explain the reasons why they are shutting it down.”