by Sue Ann Rybak

J.S. Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences, 8301 Germantown Ave., and three other schools: Chester A. Arthur Elementary School, 2000 Catharine St.; Laura H. Carnell Elementary, 1100 Devereaux, and Tilden Middle School, 6601 Elmwood Ave., have been selected for the School District of Philadelphia’s School Redesign Initiative (SRI).

Unlike schools in the Renaissance process, schools participating in the School Redesign Initiative will remain district schools and will not be eligible for charter conversion.

“These schools showed innovative visions for teaching and learning, led by dedicated educators and community partners,” said Dr. William R. Hite, superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia in a statement last week. “The School Redesign Initiative allows us to maximize the district’s existing talent and passion. We are excited about the potential of these redesign plans.”

Ryan Stewart, executive director of the Office of School Improvement and Innovation at the School District of Philadelphia, said in a video on that “the School Redesign Initiative (SRI) is a call to our talented, committed educators to lead the critical work of redesigning our city’s neighborhood schools to meet the demands of the 21st century.”

All the proposed design plans focus on using technology in the classroom to engage students in more innovative ways using inquiry and project-based learning.

Mary Lynskey, principal of J.S. Jenks, said the school’s redesign plan attempts to “remove the walls and the bells” associated with the traditional classroom. She said the plan is designed to increase teacher collaboration and use resources better through a “shared-classroom model.”

She added that the school hopes to implement a summer session that will provide students with opportunities to gain hands-on experience in forensics, physics, engineering, and chemistry through partnerships with the Franklin Institute, Chestnut Hill College and other organizations.

Lynskey said the school will continue to work with the Virginia Space Flight Academy to offer students a chance to attend its week-long space camp.

Recently the school changed its name so it could increase the curriculum’s focus on STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math).

Haviva Goldman, president of the Friends of J.S. Jenks and a parent of a Jenks’ student, said Friends of J.S. Jenks will continue to work with parents, teachers, local businesses and other organizations to bring the plan to fruition.

Lynskey said the school will receive $30,000 to use for planning and to help with implementation of the new proposal. She noted that final proposals are due in March.

“Aside from the money, this gives us the freedom to explore educational solutions that may not have been the norm or traditionally embraced in the past,” she added.

Lynskey said the initiative is an opportunity to empower Jenks’ students to be lifelong learners. She added that she wants students to be empowered to take ownership of their education.

“We want them to not just see learning as something that happens at a desk between 8:30 a.m. and 3:09 p.m.,” Lynskey said.