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Integrating two rivals through football: A story from Philadelphia's school closings

Like Chicago, Philadelphia also closed a ton of its public schools this year, citing an austerity budget and underused school buildings. Unlike Chicago, Philadelphia’s closings included high schools as well, as the New York Times reported Sunday in a lovely story about the challenges of integrating two former football rivals within a single team at a consolidated high school:

New York Times photo

What was once unthinkable to many players had become intimate and binding. Most of King’s current roster played last season at archrival Germantown High School in northwest Philadelphia. Few could have imagined the schools merging, the teams playing as one.

When King last defeated Germantown in their annual Thanksgiving Day game, in 2010, the players brawled with fists and helmets. The police intervened.

But austerity has trumped rivalry. Facing a $304 million budget shortfall, the chronically troubled Philadelphia School District closed 23 schools in June. The closings included Germantown, one of the nation’s oldest high schools, which opened in 1914 and closed a year shy of its centennial. Most of its students would now attend King. The two schools were about a mile apart and shared a tense history.

Layoff notices were sent to more than 3,800 school district employees, 20 percent of the work force, including 676 teachers. Officials described what they called a “doomsday” possibility: classes opening Sept. 9 with no assistant principals, secretaries, new books, paper, librarians, art, music — or sports.

While much public attention was focused on how the cuts would affect the classroom, the fear of empty football fields and silent basketball gyms deepened the uncertainty, dislocation and chaos that accompanied this latest budget crisis in the nation’s fifth-largest city.

Read the whole thing here.

I grew up in Philadelphia; I’d say the Germantown neighborhood is perhaps Philadelphia’s equivalent of… East Garfield Park.