Less than 40 students show up for school after parents reject alternate plan for Building 21

Students and staff will not be returning to the Building 21 school after asbestos was discovered after an inspection and a meeting to discuss the backup plan quickly got heated. 

Fireworks flew at Strawberry Mansion High School Sunday at what was supposed to be an open house for parents and students to check out their new home for the foreseeable future. However, it turned into a shouting match with parents demanding answers.

The superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia was on the hot seat as dozens of angry parents from Building 21 High School refused to take a tour. The plan was to show them and their children where they will be learning until the district cleans up asbestos found in some parts of their school.

Building 21 senior Taylor Gatewood stated, "It’s unsafe around here, so how do you expect us to come to Strawberry Mansion when we’re already unsafe at Building 21? We’re already beefing with each other, and you’re going to expect us to go to North Philly?"

RELATED COVERAGE: Students will learn remotely after asbestos discovered in West Oak Lane's Building 21 school

Many parents want their kids to move to online learning until it’s safe to go back. Superintendent Tony Watlington says that’s not an option.

"We’re certainly not tone-deaf, and we’re going to debrief on this feedback and continue to look at what all of our options are to serve all of our children here, in Philadelphia," Watlington said.

"I would not ask you to send your student to school as I would not send my student to school if I was not comfortable, so we will do our best to support you," Brianne MacNamara, Principal at Building 21, said.

Parent Tiffany Brown stated, "She’s not coming tomorrow. There will be an empty fourth floor here, come Monday."

Almost every parent who showed up Sunday said they will not be sending their child to Strawberry Mansion.

As of Monday morning, officials say less than 40 of 370 students from District 21 showed up for class, with 22 of them taking a shuttle provided by SEPTA.

The school district says the superintendent is working on getting state approval to allow remote learning for students, clarifying that he does not plan on punishing any student for absences at this time.