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LOLadelphia Responds to ‘Abandoned Philly Public Schools’ Post

February 11, 2014

Processed with VSCOcam with m6 preset

(Photo by Austin Hodges)

Last week I posted photos by local photographer/Instagrammer, Austin Hodges. These photos document a few of Philadelphia’s more recently abandoned public high schools. I posted these photos for two reasons: 1) I found them completely awe-inspiring. And 2) I thought they said more than I ever could about the state of the public school system in Philly, namely its purposeful underfunding by elected officials.

I thought these photos would allow people to see this very crucial issue in a new light. And I hoped this would encourage more conversations, and ultimately more activism. More people should be raving mad about public school underfunding. And our elected officials need to be taken to task for their poor leadership on this most basic fundamental resource of a free and democratic society. Especially a society that sees itself as innovative, and wants to remain that way.

Unfortunately, it seems the post hit at least one fellow Philadelphian the wrong way: LOLadelphia, who wrote a few posts on his blog criticizing me for posting the photos. This week, I reached out to LOLadelphia and asked him to summarize his criticism for me to post here. Below are his thoughts:

“I don’t like the idea of recently-closed schools becoming a playground for people who simply want an adventure. If you do urban exploration and this commentary offends you, my apologies. You have to understand the situation. If these schools start becoming hot spots for that type of thing, the School District of Philadelphia (who still owns the buildings by the way) won’t be able to sell them to a charter school or a developer who might do something with the building. When people take pictures from the roof of the Divine Lorraine, are they thinking about how when Father Divine took over the Lorraine Hotel, he turned it into a place where people could purchase cheap meals, and turned the top floor banquet hall into a church, or are they thinking about how they can take a bad-ass picture? When people take pictures of the basketball court at the old Spring Garden School, do they even know that that school relocated to right around the corner? Probably not. These buildings just become a place for people who want an adventure to hang out, and I guess I’m fine with that because nothing’s being done with these buildings anyway. I think schools, however, especially ones that closed less than a year ago, are different.

If people really care about these closed schools, they should talk to people in the community; graduates of the institution both recent and decades ago.   We should all be on the same page attending the same rallies (which I don’t post on here for reasons pertaining to my privacy) trying to give our city’s children a voice. I don’t think going on an urban exploration adventure and implicitly encouraging other like-minded individuals to do the same makes the kind of statement that they think it is. Think about the kids. Think about the community. Don’t think about making a recently closed school into another Divine Lorraine. I know I’ll catch some shit for this post, so please know that I respect Streets Dept as a fellow blogger, I just disagree with him on this. If you’re into urban exploration, more power to you. Just remember, I had School Police called on me for taking pictures of the OUTSIDE of a recently closed school, and the sale of these buildings is crucial to the School District of Philadelphia’s “master plan” to resolve their budget woes. If you really “care” about these buildings, you will leave them alone and let the school district do what they intend to do with them.”

Check out more from LOLadelphia on their RIP Philly Schools page HERE.

Special thanks to LOLadelphia for sharing their thoughts on this topic. I’m always happy to hear people’s differing points of view, and I’ve got great respect for the work and passion LOLadelphia puts in their blog. We may disagree a bit on this topic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk through our opinions with reason and respect, as I think we have here. Thanks LOLadelphia!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Zach permalink
    February 11, 2014 3:10 pm

    These can’t be “playgrounds”. No one knows what schools these are. If urbex people want to go into these closed down schools they can just check the ones that closed down and get in. Of course two opinions on this topic is great to hear.

  2. February 11, 2014 5:15 pm

    Chris is a bit of a blow hard and blows this whole thing out of proportion.

    • February 11, 2014 10:55 pm

      I don’t appreciate being called a blowhard for simply disagreeing with someone, Larry. However, you’re more than welcome to think whatever you would like about me.

      Here’s the thing to remember. These schools, as another person said, are like a sacred space. You see kids grow up, fall in love, and get to know each other within the walls. You see kids mature and you’re with them every step of the way, through thick and thin. When I walked through one of the closed schools for the last time, I had tears running down my face as I thought of all the amazing memories I had there. My love for Philadelphia public schools runs deep, and it’s 100% genuine.

      My opinion is a simple one, we grow attached to these places over time. Imagine the house you grew up in suddenly becoming a place for people who just want an adventure to explore. They don’t care about where your mom cooked meals for you every night or where you and your siblings would play with your toys…they just want to take pictures and get the hell out. I don’t have anything against people who do urban exploration. I’ve done it in my younger years, and had a lot of fun with it. I don’t even care if people do it now. I just think it’s disrespectful to the schools and all the people who worked there and attended there to treat them as an urban exploration destination so quickly after they closed.

  3. educator permalink
    February 11, 2014 6:10 pm

    as someone who taught in one of these closed down schools. i do agree whole-heartedly with LOLADELPHIA. the building is a sacred space… like a church. it is important to know the stories, the people, the life of the building. don’t be another voyeur. i speak for many of my colleagues when i say that it’s like pissing on a grave.

    • February 11, 2014 10:39 pm

      It was not mentioned in the post, but I am closely affiliated with the School District of Philadelphia. I won’t say in what capacity, but these buildings mean a lot to me and one of the buildings featured in the post was one that I used to spend a lot of time at. It deeply upset me to see a place I grew to love and look forward to going to being treated as an urban adventure.

  4. February 11, 2014 8:00 pm

    I just want to say how much I appreciate you going back to LOLadelphia following his criticism. By engaging with him, sharing his comments and clarifying your position, readers like me get a wider view of this topic / issue. I’m not sure most in your position would have done the same. I think it reflects a high level journalistic integrity that sadly deserves to be noted these days.

    In any event, I’m not sure where I stand on the issue at question and that is thanks to your willingness to present multiple viewpoints.

    So again, great work. Really am impressed by / enjoy the blog.

    Best, Mike

    • February 11, 2014 10:47 pm

      Agreed. My biggest fear when I posted my criticism is that my deep respect for Conrad’s work would get lost in my words. Despite saying countless times in the full post how much I liked and respected his work, I still caught a lot of heat for it…which sucked for me, but is also a tribute to how much other Philadelphians such as myself respect the work of Conrad.

      It meant a lot to me that when I sent the post to Conrad and apologized to him for any possible disrespect, he not only respected my opinion, but reached out to me and offered to feature my comments on his site.

      We have different opinions, but we share the same mindset and sadness when it comes to this tragedy and crisis. I see now that my words were a little sharper than they needed to be, but I have so much admiration for Streets Dept for his willingness to feature multiple viewpoints, as you said.

  5. Naimah permalink
    February 14, 2014 6:42 pm

    I’m a current student in the Philadelphia School District and I don’t see the problem with the pictures. Now, I’ve read the comment section and seen others point of views but I think many commenters are missing the big picture. To me the pictures were sent as a reminder to all those movers and shakers and elected officials to remember the teachers, students, staff that they undermined and neglected, a post it note from the schools they’re currently underfunding and a tribute to the former attendees of these closed schools so they know they aren’t forgotten. This post touched my heart in a way being as though several weeks prior Governor Tom Corbett ran out on the seniors of Central High School with bullshit excuses to cover up the fact that he didn’t want to address his mistakes as a governor or face the angered parents outside protesting even though he had police escorts and police fully surrounding the school. In closing while these pictures were seen as “urban exploration” to some people, these photos felt like someone had cut the grass and laid flowers on an unkempt grave to me.

  6. February 20, 2014 3:51 pm

    I do bieve the problem here is that some see this post as a means for people to use the information for dubius reasons and the fact is that the article can be used for both good and bad. You can attack those that might use the article for malicious intent but also remember some may use it for good so do not kill the messanger but rather those that would use this information for harm instead and that is what I believe Chris originally intended.

  7. March 10, 2014 3:42 pm

    I want to thank the commenters for being largely civil and creating a space for dialog. I certainly see the schools and sacred space but I also see the photos as an artist opening up a dialog(mission complete) that hopefully leads to people of Philly geting to “I”m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” state of mind. Then the conversation wouldn’t be about selling the buildings for the school system to meet budget concerns it would be about everyone[including elected officials] placing priority on the education system. If the people actually showed outrage then we might not have the problem of newly vacated schools.

    Also I want to share a campaign I recently came across on the topic of early education which I think is a real way to stretch education dollars by investing them early. to get involved.

  8. July 10, 2014 5:55 am

    I always spent my half an hour to read this blog’s articless or reviews all the time along with a mug of coffee.

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