University City parents have been complaining for a couple years now about overcrowding at the highly desirable Penn Alexander elementary school at 42nd and Spruce, which is run by the University of Pennsylvania. In fact, prices of homes can jump $50,000 or even $100,000 if they're in the Penn Alexander catchment—even if they're exactly the same kind of homes as the non-catchment homes across the street.
Though one solution that's been floated is opening more spots at Penn Alexander, the West Philadelphia Coalition for Neighborhood Schools (WPCNS) has a different idea: Why not make other schools in the area as good as Penn Alexander so that parents will happily send their children to any one of them?
WPCNS currently focuses its energies on Lea Elementary at 47th and Locust, a sensible geographical alternative. Most recently, it's been working with the Community Design Collaborative to get a service grant for a greening master plan. The greening project for the schoolyard at Lea would include redesigning the entrance to the school and "creating a series of outdoor "rooms" and play areas. While the plans look pretty fabulous, funds are an ongoing problem. But for those parents who were camping out last year to get a spot in Penn Alexander—and those who'd like to buy a house without paying a catchment fee—it might be worth getting involved.
· Greening Lea Master Plan Presented! [WPCNS]