Our Turn to Build Our Legacy

In the 1960s, Friend Select leadership made the bold and correct decision, in my opinion, to stay in the heart of Philadelphia instead of selling the campus to buy a more sprawling piece of real estate in the suburbs to build a new campus. They envisioned themselves being part of efforts to address the issues that were ailing the city at the time. Their foresight and commitment propels us—and compels me—to continue the legacy of preparing students for the whole of life and to “walk cheerfully over the world,” with a heightened level of cosmopolitan competence. Yet in staying in our current location along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Friends Select faces the challenge of how we use our space, which is one of the primary areas of focus in our strategic plan, Advance Friends Select.

Between the PA/Seminar rooms being occupied by upper school language and English classes this year and lower school classes on the second floor encroaching upon the middle school, we have maxed out usable space in the building to deliver the high-quality programming for which we are known. Many of our upper school teachers are sharing classrooms. The Gray Library has become a gathering place for group meetings. Enrollment has been robust, and we have expanded our staff and programming strategically, all of which speak to the exciting momentum our school is experiencing right now. Yet we are still limited by our current space.

In a recent meeting with upper school science teachers and administrators, we spent considerable time reimagining our upper school science labs. The current labs are the original ones from 50 years ago. The high level of excitement and expectation drove one of us to tears. An immediate outcome of that meeting is we are taking a trip to New York City to visit a few schools with similar footprints that recently renovated their science classrooms. Then we will have our teachers sit with our architect to participate in sketching science labs that enhance teaching and learning.

One of our goals this year is to begin addressing the problem of limited space. Since last spring, we have been meeting and discussing options, both short- and long-term. There will be renovations and the acquisition of additional space. We intend to create space that reflects and supports the quality of programs that we offer to students every day. It won’t be easy, but neither was the decision of Friends Select’s leadership half a century ago. What we already know for certain: this effort will be worth it for us now and for those who will come after us.