In November, the University announced a $100 million gift to the School District of Philadelphia. The money—$10 million annually for 10 years—will go toward remediating environmental hazards like asbestos and lead in public school buildings in the perennially cash-strapped district, which has an estimated $4.5 billion in unmet capital needs overall.
“Nothing is more important than the health and welfare of our children, and few things are more crucial to a community than the safety and quality of its public schools,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said in a statement on the gift, the largest private donation in the district’s history. “We are proud to be able to partner with our city and school district to significantly improve the learning environment for Philadelphia’s schoolchildren in a way that will have a long-lasting impact on the health, safety, and wellbeing of our entire city.”
Since 2018, 54 school buildings have had existing lead paint fully stabilized and 25 have been certified as lead safe, while $23 million has been spent on asbestos-related projects. An additional program of safety and inspection measures was approved last fall, with $41 million allocated for asbestos testing and abatement and other remediation expenses in January 2020.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney commended the University for its “historic gift,” which he said would “go a long way in accelerating the district’s aggressive environmental remediation work”—and hoped would inspire other local institutions to offer their support as well. District Superintendent William Hite said the gift “will be a great support as we move forward to address the immediate environmental conditions in all of our schools,” allowing the district to focus on “creating 21st-century learning environments for all students.”
This latest gift adds to the University’s longtime commitment to the Penn Alexander School in West Philadelphia (going back to its construction and totaling some $25 million over 15 years) and its partnership with the nearby Henry C. Lea Elementary, as well as some 500 educational activities operated by Penn affiliates serving schools throughout the district.