Synagogue says announcement of school district's lease of classrooms was 'premature'

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Ben Franklin High and Science Leadership Academy students finally have places to resume classes on Monday, but one of the sites is saying the School District of Philadelphia's announcement was "premature."

On Thursday, the district announced it would go with a temporary school plan largely supported by parents and school officials. Ben Franklin students will occupy the former Khepera Charter School in North Philadelphia, and SLA students will attend classes at district headquarters and nearby Congregation Rodeph Shalom.

The building the houses both schools is closed through December for asbestos removal.

However, synagogue Executive Director Jeff Katz emailed congregants Thursday evening saying the announcement that the district leased its classroom space for students was "premature and made without our knowledge."

The email says the discussions had been going on for less than 48 hours, and synagogue leaders were continuing to explore it.  

District Superintendent William Hite, who announced the deal Thursday, said the deal isn't completely finished.

"We're still in negotiations and we hope to be finalizing those soon," he said. "This was always going to be a phased process." 

Hite said the district was planning to pay Rodeph Shalom a total of $80,000 through December to rent several classrooms. Katz's email says negotiations will have a "particular focus" on security.  

On Friday afternoon, the district and Rodeph Shalom issued a joint statement: "While a signed agreement is not yet concluded, if feasible, there is a mutual desire to temporarily house a portion of the students of the Science Leadership Academy at Congregation Rodeph Shalom. We are working through open issues while concurrently addressing the needs of the Rodeph Shalom community including the Buerger Early Learning Center families as well as the SLA."