The Alexander Wilson grade school on Woodland Avenue closed earlier this year along with 23 other Philadelphia public schools. Students were absorbed into the Henry C. Lea School on 47th Street, along with Principal Sonya Harrison, who took over the corresponding position at the Lea School.
The question remains what will happen to the three-story, 40,200 square-feet building, acquired by the Philadelphia School District in 1956 and valued at more than $3 million.
The School District adopted an “adaptive reuse policy” for empty properties. Maintaining a vacant building costs the district $40,000 to $50,000 annually.
Bill Fox, director of the Office of Real Property Management for the School District, said his office is awaiting approval from the mayor and School District superintendent to push forward a resolution to put the building up for sale. The building has not been priced, Fox said.
Philadelphia put six of its 37 vacant school buildings up for sale in 2012, ranging in price from $1 to $6 million, a Pew Charitable Trust study reported. The study noted the sale prices for the buildings are often less than the asking price, due to decaying structural conditions and their location in areas of population decline.
Charter schools are a frequent buyer for the buildings, one of which is the Knowledge is Power Program. Over the summer, KIPP presented a plan to the School District and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell to buy the Alexander Wilson School building. KIPP’s proposal stated it would run a 100-student kindergarten without district funding for one year. The program would then add one grade level per year for four years with district funding, The Notebook reported.
The plan conflicts with the School District’s announcement in April that it would freeze charter school expansion for the current school year.
Waadeah Floyd, from Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s office, said there have been no further developments with the building’s usage, although City Council passed a bill for the building’s sale.
Representatives of the University of the Sciences’ Samson College of Health and Sciences, which sits next door to the Wilson building, said they have not been contacted by the School District concerning plans for the land.
Alexander Wilson School is currently 90-percent-empty, with furniture and supplies put in storage or distributed to other district schools. The fate of the schoolyard playground, built with a $50,000 grant from the Hamels Foundation in 2010, is yet to be determined, Fox said.