Time for an upgrade

Mayor Jim Kenney and Superintendent William Hite announce much-needed renovations planned for Wilson Middle School.

Simply perfect: Woodrow Wilson Middle School principal Stefanie Ressler talks with a student who earned perfect attendance this year. JOHN COLE / TIMES PHOTO

Many of the students and parents at Woodrow Wilson Middle School, 1800 Cottman Ave., weren’t even alive the last time the school had major renovations completed, but that soon will change.

Last week, Mayor Jim Kenney and William R. Hite, superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, made a trip to Wilson to detail the renovations set to take place at the school and discuss their desire for approval of the mayor’s school funding proposal to City Council.

Wilson currently has a total of over 1,400 students, speaking 38 different languages, ranging from sixth through eighth grades.

Wilson opened its doors to educate the community in September 1927 to 400 elementary students and 1,050 junior high students. In the 1960s, the school received its first set of renovations since the school’s inception and has not since seen major changes to the building.

JOHN COLE / TIMES PHOTO

“Not only Wilson, but every single one of our schools. They need to be brought up to date to serve children for the future,” said Wilson principal Stefanie Ressler. “A lot of our buildings are old and not adequate enough, so the need should have been done 20 years ago.”

Ressler discussed that there are “three focused areas” for the upcoming renovations that will begin next month.

Some of the major changes to be made at Wilson are updating the science lab to include a chemical shower, improvements to the music suite and art rooms, giving each classroom more than one outlet and up-to-date lighting and adding a track outside.

“Through those renovations, we hope to see new boilers, where once three boilers serviced our school and now we’re down to a half and more than one outlet per classroom will be taken care of,” Ressler said.

Kenney and Hite used Wilson as an example of the need to fully fund the mayor’s budget proposal for the School District of Philadelphia.

“They’re not asking for much,” said Hite. “When you think about asking for boilers that work, more than one outlet in a classroom, better lighting, better windows. Those are not things that should be that far reaching, but they are things that should be available for all of our students.”

City Council is mulling over Kenney’s budget proposal, but Hite stressed his belief that his full budget be approved, not only chunks of it.

“The plan can only go into effect when Mayor Kenney’s entire school funding plan is approved,” said Hite. “I was optimistic then, I remain optimistic now that the mayor’s budget will be adopted in its entirety.”

Kenney discussed the urgency in which he thinks this should be dealt by Philadelphia’s elected officials.

“No student, teacher, parent should have to wait indefinitely for needed improvements to their schools,” said Kenney. “…We can kick the can down the road, as the state has kicked the can down the road, we don’t do it, we’re never going to get ourselves out of this poverty situation.”

Kenney said in his speech there are “basically two groups of people in this city.” People stuck in poverty who have no other choice but the School District of Philadelphia and millenials who, once they get married and start a family, move to the surrounding suburbs for better school districts.

“Either we allow people to continue to move out of the city in search of good, adequate schools for their kids or we fix them ourselves and stop waiting for Superman or Superwoman to fly in and save us, it’s not happening,” said Kenney.

Renovations at Wilson will begin this summer and are expected to be completed in 2020. ••

John Cole can be reached at JCole@bsmphilly.com