Education activist A. Jean Arnold helped distribute backpacks at last week’s Back to School Rally.

By AlexandraPaulin

It’s back-to-school this week for thousands of Delaware County students including those in the William Penn, Penn-Delco, Rose Tree Media, Chichester and Chester Upland school districts.
Southeast Delco students returned last week.
Chester Upland School District (CUSD) officials were expected to be joined by City of Chester leaders to enthusiastically welcome students back to school on Tuesday. At 7 A.M., students returning to Chester High School were to be greeted by a host of officials led by their new superintendent, Gregory Shannon, and Chester Mayor John Linder.
Last week, school and city officials hosted a Back-to-School Rally and concert at Chester Park and gave away nearly 1,500 backpacks filled with school supllies.
Brittney Hardaway, a young mother and new Chester resident, stood peacefully in line for water ice Thursday evening, her arms full of her children’s brand new backpacks.
“This is very nice of them,” she said, “it’s positive for kids to be coming together. Personally, for me, I haven’t been working lately and I was worried about how I was going to get them supplies, but now I don’t have to worry anymore.”
Hardaway’s children, like 3,000 other children in the area, are enrolled in the Chester Upland School District (CUSD) as school gets back in session this week. Earlier this year, select schools in the district were slated for closure under a building reconfiguration plan district officials presented.
Due to a successful summertime push for new enrollment, over 800 more students than was anticipated, all schools in the district will remain open. To celebrate this, CUSD hosted a Welcome Back Rally last week in Chester Park and distributed almost 1,500 CUSD logo-bearing backpacks. The school district partnered with the City of Chester to also promote the city’s annual Peace on the Streets concert event. Both events made for a huge gathering of community togetherness Thursday night.
“We’re excited to be able to provide our students with social skills and coping skills so we can all get along in a healthy manner. We are wildly excited about opening up a new school year for the (district),” Superintendent Gregory Shannon said.
CUSD also debuted one of its newly-purchased buses during the event. The district has a total of 11 brand new buses that will hit the road this week. The city and school district also teamed up to provide free water ice and pretzels, as well as informational booths from vendors who had bikes and iPad giveaways, all in the name of keeping peace on the streets of Chester.
“We’re losing too many young people on the streets and I don’t understand why,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Williams said. “No matter how mad or upset you may be (violence) isn’t the way to settle it. It’s very sad….a life is a terrible thing to lose,” she said, continuing, “This year we’re working together, the city and the school district, so that our children know that we’re on the same page and together wanting them to be productive members of society in the United States, not just in the City of Chester. Their education will take them wherever they want to go to in this world.”
Mayor John Linder, Shannon, and Councilmembers Nafis Nichols and Portia West took to the stage before the entertainment portion of the event began, all four sporting CUSD branded backpacks, and attempted to pump up the crowd for the performances.
“It’s not police’s responsibility; it’s not Council’s responsibility; it’s everyone who is here tonight. It’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure we have peace on our streets,” Nichols said.
Power99-FM provided the main entertainment for the evening as recording artists B Smyth, Bridget Kelly, and Gillie the Kid performed to a packed crowd at the park. Children young and old danced to the cleaned up version of many songs as all the artists were warned about their lyrics before performing.

Andelis Williams, (left) Joseph Pollai (center) and Jacenia Rosado show off their backpacks and face paintings during the Back to School Rally last Thursday. The backpacks and face painting were free for all children.

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