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Aspiring South Philadelphia Musicians Facing Busing Crisis

(credit: CBS) Pat Ciarrocchi
In addition to anchoring and reporting news for CBS 3, Pat Ciarro...
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By Pat Ciarrocchi

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Aspiring musicians at one South Philadelphia school are facing a busing crisis.

For years, they’ve physically balanced books and instruments, to and from GAMP—the Girard Academic Music Program at 21st and Ritner. But next year, it could be a lot harder when the school bus service they’ve depended on is cut.

Parents are ready to fight.

I walked through the front doors of GAMP, welcomed by Jack Carr, the Principal. And was escorted into a “creative laboratory”
as one parent described it. Students were auditioning for the talent show. Singers, musicians—in grades five through 12. Five hundred students study there. But they also find their joy there.

“It’s a unique place, with unique kids,” said Gerrold Hill, a parent of a fifth grader. “And they have a unique burden of carrying their instruments that provide them their joy.”

In September, the GAMP school community learned that the funding for school bus service for middle school students was being eliminated, next school year. No school bus leaves a private ride, or public transportation. And some students said that scares them.

Eighth grader—Anthony Grillo—carries his newest instrument, a wooden clarinet. He told me it was “expensive.”

“If I had to take a Septa bus,” said Anthony, “ I would be very frightened because I’ve heard many stories of people getting mugged or robbed for their stuff even their sneakers.”

Parents believe so strongly in GAMP … they’re staging an all out campaign to save the buses.

Kathryn Hiester is a parent of a middle school student who carries two instruments to school.

“We’re going to fight for our kids, because if they throw our kids off the school buses, it’s like taking all our families and throwing them under a Septa bus,” said Hiester. “Our kids don’t have a free hand to hold onto a bus, they have their back packs, they have their lunches and they have two instruments.”

“Gamp needs to be looked at with a different sort of lens, “ said Hill.

Principal Jack Carr is one of the founding teachers at GAMP and hopes if the Philadelphia School District can’t fund six buses for 178 middle school students, someone will.

“Parents could pull (their children) out of here,” said Carr. “As much as they love this school and as popular as it is, there is only so much risk you are willing to take for the life of your child when you have to travel this distance.”

The Girard Academic Music Program’s Save The Bus advocates will make their case before the School Reform Commission next Wednesday, October 17th. This is not their last note.

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