Lamberton School, RIP 2013

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Lamberton, built in 1949, like Beeber is on the edge of Lower Merion.  To get to it from Beeber, I dip through the posh neighborhood immediately on the outside of the Philadelphia city lines.  There is nothing natural to distinguish these two neighborhoods- no treeline, river, or mountain.  A purely political boundary results in vacant, dilapidated housing surrounded by Popeye’s chainfood and dollarstores while the other side of the dividing line has similarly old mansions, interspersed with new Frank Lloyd-esque homes and the sprawling campus of a Jewish Day School, where an annual $19,000 tuition fetches a grand campus surrounded by sports fields.  Lamberton, itself, is sandwiched between two expansive parks- in what should be as desirable a setting as that found in Lower Merion.

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Lamberton appears to be undergoing major renovations.

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A blue tarp dangles in the breeze.  In the distance, I can see the crossing guard standing at the foot of a Baptist church.

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A crane idles in the school’s back lot as men repair the tar on the roof.  The school district must be investing in the property, getting it ready for sale????  And the concept seems to bizarre when I consider all the public schools that are to remain open.  Those with cracked blacktops, missing basketball hoops, buckets in the middle of hallways that catch rain water, broken windows, lack of janitorial staff to properly clean the facilities… the decision to repair this school that is going to be sold instead of spending funding on schools that are to remain open- I just cannot wrap my mind around it.

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Will they paint over the mural on the side of the school?  This mural shows a blonde child kneeling next to a black child.  They are tending a garden together.  A grandfather, father, and son tend a bush together.

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When one-in-three, 30 percent, of all black males go to prison: this vision seems increasingly rare.  That the Philadelphia school budget was cut by the exact amount as the increase in state prison spending seems even more ominous.

This mural is a vision- one worth working towards.

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And at its base, caution tape and the workman’s elevator obscure the phrase, “Never doubt that a … thoughtful, committed citizens ….”

[Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has]

Is it true?  Where are the thoughtful, committed citizens of Lamberton?  Did they put up a fight?  If they did, who did they fight against?  Why could they not win?

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Construction at the entrance of the upper school.  Boards lean against the barred windows.  An open dumpster brims with construction material.

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Throwing caution (tape) to the wind.  Much of the school is taped up like a crime scene.

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Trophies seen through the bars of a classroom window.

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A  no-fun sign which may have been there as long as the school.  “No ball playing,” it reads, sandwiched between two grated windows which could not conceivably be harmed even if Babe Ruth launched a baseball right at them.  Maybe these windows were not always barred?  When did the bars come up? The 70s? The 80s? The 90s?

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The trash in the ditch: a clearly labeled indicator of human activity. In this case, children drink sugary, fortified, commercialized as healthy beverages from a plastic bottle.  Adults smoke.  Children smoke? Adults drink sugary, fortified health beverages from plastic bottles?  Either way, the problems that plague our education system are woven together with so many other problems: health, diet, environment, land use, housing stock, economy, commercialization, globalization …Image

Unlike many of the conjoined elementary-middle-high schools slated for closure (Drew-Shaw-University City, Fulton-Germantown High) Lamberton’s lower school is to remain open.  I ask a teacher as she ushers a class into Lamberton if school is going on while all the construction racket is happening on the roof.  School is in progress.

“It doesn’t make sense.  It’s all political,” she says about the closing.

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8 thoughts on “Lamberton School, RIP 2013

  1. This is not the school that I remember. In the Late 50s the windows were not barred. The school yard was teeming with kids at play. There was a vibrancy that inhabited the presence of this school. It is sad.

  2. I graduated in 90 from Lamberton. It was a pretty neat school with a good staff. Most importantly, my graduating class actually cared for each other. We didn’t have much for sports programs, but we had them (I played on the soccer team). I still remember the hallways and side entrances to the auditorium. Going to the synagogue down the block for 9th grade and the Presbyterian church on city line ave for 10th! That’s an experience. Sad to see it closed.

  3. I was there in 1949 on the first day Lamberton opened. I was in the 3rd grade. My teacher was Mrs. Florence Golfred and the principal was Mr. Emil Wolfe. I was there when the cornerstone was laid and the widow of Judge Lamberton was present at the ceremony. It was such a beautiful school, with a huge playground. Had a wonderful summer activities schedule too — with sports, arts and crafts. I remember how we were all amazed (being small children) how all the coat closets opened in a row. We had lots of potted plants (sweet potatoes in water, too) on the window sills. Mrs. Jeanne Graham always led the assemblies – she was very musical. While the school was being built, we had to take a bus to Cassidy Elementary School. After graduating Lamberton, we went to Beeber and then to Overbrook High. So sorry to hear about Lamberton closeing.

  4. Lamberton was my first school: I attended from kindergarten through fourth grade (1952-1957). The comment above about the coat closets that opened in a row brings back lots of memories (such as the specific aroma of oilcloth slickers on rainy days), ditto the potted plants. In the first grade, we had a reading specialist (named, as I recall, Mrs. Reed!). In second grade, my teacher, Miss Artin (?), used to get the class to stand up every 45 minutes or so by teaching us the rhumba and cha-cha-cha and other steps that she, herself, was then learning from her weekly classes at Arthur Murray; we practiced in the aisles between the movable desks. I remember visiting theater presentations coming after school to the auditorium, which seemed magical, and plays that the school itself put on, and the importance of dressing up at Halloween for a formal festivity. The visits of the weekly bookmobile were incredibly special. My third-grade teacher was Miss McCullough, and my fourth-grade teacher was, I think, Mrs. Ardis.

  5. The Lamberton high school segment is all that was closed, not the middle or elementary schools. The roof repair was not to prepaid the building for sale, but to maintain the building for the 300+ student still using the facility. Lots of incorrect information in this article including the jibberish about “dilapidated housing”. Units in this neighborhood routineline transact for six figures. The only complainers, as usual, are the white flighters. Those with rose colored glasses about this neighborhood’s past those who deny that Italian mob types, Jewish snob racists and brute whites who attacked African Americans at those “desirable parks”. This is the cities safest section and will continue to be so as the new demographic will keep it so, despite the age of the housing. The down you nose smugness in the comments about the neighborhood comparing then to now is not needed. We are fine, the lamberton school is doing well and if we never see any of the white flight departed again in these parts it will be to soon.

  6. Whoever wrote this incorrect. Its not closing. They are doing repairs that it needs. The bars on the windows were put there so that the balls dont break the windows. There used to be a playground there. You need to check your resource before you write something stupid with speculations!!!

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