To expand educational opportunities for children and support families in West Philadelphia, Drexel University undertook the challenge of expanding the capacity and improving the facilities of two existing neighborhood public schools in West Philadelphia. The schools are in the federally designated West Philadelphia Promise Zone where the poverty rate is over 50%.
This project brings together two high-performing neighborhood public schools together on one campus to create a unique K-8 learning community in the heart of the innovation neighborhood of University City in Philadelphia. This project expands and relocates Powel Elementary School (grades K-4), an existing high-performing and extremely diverse elementary school, and provides a permanent location for Science Leadership Academy Middle School (grade 5-8), an inquiry-based middle school.
The two schools operate together in the same building and share an art room, library, music/drama room, gymnasium, cafetorium (cafeteria and auditorium combined), nursing, counseling, outdoor areas, and some administrative services. The gymnasium and cafetorium have public entrances to encourage community use. The facility has been designed to be used for community purposes during non-school hours, to provide broader community impact including community school programming both on-site and nearby in the community.
To make this type of public-private partnership school funding possible in a timely manner, flexible rates and terms were needed to make this financing feasible. Drexel provided $14 million in equity and along with the land for the project valued at $7 million. NMTC allocations from the three CDEs filled the remaining gap in the capital stack and ensure that the School District will pay nominal rent. The School District shall pay a base rent of $1.00 per month and all related property operating expenses.
Expected to open in 2021, the new Powel Elementary School and Science Leadership Academy Middle School bring an innovative and high-performing learning environment to a low-income community in West Philadelphia. With student capacity increasing from 555 to 810, the new schools provided more children living in the Promise Zone with an educational experience that will equip them to be successful in high school and postsecondary endeavors.
Powel Elementary School is a student-centered, community-based elementary school, with a holistic approach to education that focuses on developing the whole child. Science Leadership Academy Middle School embraces an innovative inquiry-driven, project-based, technology-infused instructional model. It provided an innovative STEM-focused education for children in the Promise Zone, well grounded in essential 21st century skills. Located in the heart of the innovation economy, adjacent to Drexel University and the University City Science Center, this campus makes opportunities in this new economy accessible to families in the Promise Zone, with career-facing programming for children and direct contact for parents with the employer community in this innovation district.