Comprehensive Long Term School Planning
The Camden Board of Education had its first board meeting in 1854; over 150 years ago. The creation of the board was during the Reconstruction era; a period of monumental change in American history. Now, in 2020, 166 years later, the school district is on the cusp of another transformational moment in our collective story.
To this end, the vision for the long term comprehensive planning is to create an educational landscape for the city of Camden that increases the number of high-quality academic opportunities for families, while increasing fiscal sustainability for the traditional district schools.
The beginning of state intervention was a huge period of change in the district, and brought about more high-quality school options in the City of Camden through the passing of the Urban Hope Act of 2012. While there were more high-quality seats available to families, through the charter and renaissance schools, this unique change also created a great deal of upheaval to the ecosystem of traditional public schools.
One of the unintended consequences of additional school options within the city is the fiscal challenge they present for the remaining traditional public schools. For example, as the district enrollment dropped by half from 2012 to what it is currently - 13,727 to 6,841, respectively - the number of school buildings the district operates has only declined by nearly one-third. Now, the majority of district schools operate with less than 80% of seats filled, costing the district more per student and leading to a consistent budget shortfall each year.
Looking to the future, a long-term city-wide plan must consider the seats we need across all school types. In looking at enrollment trends, and to ensure equity across all schools within the city, the Camden City School District must make plans that give students and families an equitable choice across all school types. Specific to the traditional district schools, this means high-quality options, including high-functioning buildings that are 21st century-ready, top-notch academic programming for all subgroups of students, and intentional climate and culture approaches that promote well-being for all students and staff.
A commitment to long-term comprehensive school planning creates the possibility of dramatic transformation of the school district specifically and the educational landscape of the city more generally. This transformation will necessarily afford additional resources to students and families to support their education – even if that means using fewer school buildings across the city. Long-term school planning is Camden City School District’s opportunity to focus on improving the traditional District schools and unifying educational options across the city so that no matter what choice a parent makes in Camden City their child will experience a high-quality education.