PHA Completes Purchase of Vaux High School Building

The deal means PHA can begin creating space for first incoming class of new college preparatory school

Philadelphia May 19, 2017 - The Philadelphia Housing Authority announced today that it has completed the purchase of the historic Vaux High School building in North Philadelphia from the School District of Philadelphia for $2 million. The transaction clears the way for construction to begin immediately to make a portion of the school ready for the first class of at least 100 9th grade students in September. 118 students have already applied for enrollment.

"This purchase marks just the beginning," said PHA President and CEO Kelvin A. Jeremiah. "We've been gratified by the number of rising 9th grade students expressing interest in attending what will be a superb school. Our task now is to work diligently to have everything in place to open our doors to them in September."

PHA has pledged to invest $10-$15 million on renovations to the building, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. One grade of students will be added each year, moving toward a total enrollment of 504 students in 9th-12th grades in 2020.

Big Picture High School represents a unique partnership among PHA, nationally acclaimed education innovator Big Picture Learning and the School District of Philadelphia. It will be a District-managed neighborhood high school, operated by Big Picture, with educators represented by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. To be eligible for admission, students must have graduated 8th grade on time and looking for a proven, internship-based, college preparatory experience.

"A high quality neighborhood school has been a critically important component of our Sharswood-Blumberg revitalization plan. In addition to the quality homes we and our partners are building and the revitalized Ridge Avenue business corridor we are helping to create, I am most pleased with the school because of the potential it has to significantly change the lives of our children and the community in which they live," Jeremiah said.

In addition to its investment in the building, PHA will provide an annual subsidy of up to $500 per student. Philadelphia School Partnership, Lenfest Foundation; Barra Foundation; Centene Foundation and Santander Bank Foundation provided financial support for school planning and for the first year of operation.  

"With the support of our residents and partners, our foundation funders, the Board of Commissioners and the community, all together, we're doing great things," said Jeremiah.