Two weeks ago, sophomore Julia Dunn was walking through the hallways at Science Leadership Academy at Center City (SLA) when she noticed floor plans on the wall. The floor plans was from the renovations that are being made at Benjamin Franklin High School.

After 12 years of being at 55 N. 22nd St. SLA will be moving into Ben Franklin High School during the 2019-2020 school year, but will operate as two independent schools. SLA has been its current facility since the fall of 2006.

“Just recently, there were floor plans on the wall at our current school building and I was really excited to see the progress and how they’re laying out the school,” Dunn said. “I think the move is a great opportunity that both schools will benefit from. I’m really looking forward to the move.”

SLA’s move to a new location has been a long time coming for its high school students, teachers, administrators, and parents as all sides knew a long time ago that their current building would not be the school’s permanent home.

“The move to Ben Franklin next year is exciting,” said CEO of SLA schools and SLA Center City principal Chris Lehmann. “It’s also a big change for us because we’ve been in our current location since the inception of the school. We’ve lived under the knowledge that our current building is a leased facility and therefore not our permanent home for a long time. To know that that worry is done for the whole community is an exciting thing.”

The total cost of the project is an estimated $21 million. A design committee of parents, teachers, students and school leaders from both Ben Franklin and SLA provided input for the building design and will be completed by September 2019.

“The whole design was co-designed,” Lehmann said. “We had students, teachers, administrators, parents from both schools work with the school district, work with the architects, to design a modern space and to really bring the Ben Franklin complex into its next era for two schools.

“We designed our current building 13 years ago, with a specific model in mind, but now we lived in the model for 12 years,” he added. “We were able to refine some of the decisions that we made 12 years ago with this new space. There’s going to be a lot of things that we’re going to be doing now that in the past we have not. The kids are really excited about the design and the opportunity. We’re all looking forward to it.”

To help with the future transition of the two schools being under one roof, students from SLA and Ben Franklin have teamed up with each other to form a unity club.

“We’re going to be moving to Ben Franklin, so the unity club is a way for the SLA kids and the Ben Franklin Kids to team up with each other to help ensure a smooth transition next year,” said sophomore Noor Kreidie. “The club is also a great way for students from both schools to get familiar with one another and collaborate on different things. I’m really excited about moving into Ben Franklin next year. The building that we’re in right now is not to meant to be a school; it’s meant to be an office building.

“We don’t have a gym or an auditorium at our current building, so we can’t have the things that we would usually have at a school,” she added. “We can’t have a pep rally or a meeting with the whole school. Moving forward we will be able to. Everyone is excited about this new chapter. Not only will it be a better opportunity for us, but also Ben Franklin.”

chill@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5716

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