Charter school’s plan to close for NFL draft upsets some parents

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Some parents at the Russell Byers Charter School at 1911 Arch St. are questioning the school’s decision to close during the NFL draft events this month in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Neither the Philadelphia School District nor the Archdiocese of Philadelphia plans to close any nearby schools for the draft. 

Some Byers parents said closing their children’s K-6 charter from April 25 through 28 was causing them to scramble for child care or take days off from work.

“The majority of parents at the school are low-income, and all of us are having to pay for extra child care or take days off,” one mother wrote in an email. “Shouldn’t the NFL be helping us out?”

Jesse Bean, the top administrator at the charter school with 485 students, said that after the city announced a list of planned road closures March 24, officials had few other options.

“The plan the city released was similar to Made in America and the papal visit in the sense it will create traffic nightmares for buses and for parents who drive to the school,” Bean said.

“We feel compelled to do what is best,” he added.

Events surrounding the draft, which is expected to attract as many as 200,000 fans, are scheduled to take place along a half-mile stretch of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from April 27 through 29.

Road closures — including many side streets — are occurring in phases. The first round began this week, and some major closures will remain in place until 5 a.m. May 1.

Bean said the charter had communicated with city officials, the School District, and the NFL. But he said there was little time to plan because the charter is shuttered until April 18 for spring break.

He said the school opted to close for four days for the draft but noted that the decision may not be final.

“We’re still planning to close, but we’re working with the city to explore any and all contingencies,” Bean said Tuesday afternoon.

Lauren Hitt, spokeswoman for Mayor Kenney, agreed that the city is  in discussions with the charter to try to resolve the problem.

Hitt said the city had not known the charter was considering closing for the draft until it heard from a parent last week. She said the city already is handling a large number of buses picking up and dropping off schoolchildren at the Franklin Institute during Thursday and Friday of draft week.

If the charter does close, Bean said, it will make up the time by adding two days to the end of the year, reclaiming an unused snow day, and converting a training day for teachers to a day with regular instruction.

School District spokesman Lee Whack said the district is not planning any school closures or delayed openings because of the draft, even for schools closest to the Parkway. Those include Masterman, the magnet school at 1699 Spring Garden St., and two elementary schools: Laura Waring at 1801 Green St. and Bache-Martin at 2201 Brown St.

“We are certainly in communication with our school communities about the potential impact of the draft,” Whack said. “Our transportation department is accustomed to maneuvering around closures for various reasons and we have made plans to do so in this case as well.”

The archdiocese is not planning to close any schools either, including John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School at 311 N. 19th St. or St. Francis Xavier, an elementary school at 24th and Wallace Streets.

The elementary school is practically within shouting distance of the Art Museum, but it’s proceeding with the First Communion ceremony scheduled for 20 third graders on April 30.

“We’ll be open,” principal Delores M. Butler said. “We have a number of events scheduled that week.”

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