Superintendent William Hite is hoping the move makes the district more attractive.
By Denise Clay
By the end of the 2012-2013 school year, the School District of Philadelphia will be 37 schools lighter.
That’s because 37 district schools will be closing this year.
Superintendent William Hite announced the closings during a news conference on Thursday. The idea behind them is to help the district become a lean, mean education machine, he said.
“These changes achieve two goals,” he said. “They will improve the academic outcomes for all students and will provide financial sustainability and stability for the School District.”
The district is poised to save $28 million yearly with the closures, Hite said.
Currently, the district utilizes only 67 percent of its educational space, Hite said. By making the closures, the district will begin using 80 percent of its space, he said.
The team that made the list looked at building quality, academic performance, building utilization and other factors before making its decisions. The district also consulted with the Philadelphia Police Department as it made its decisions so that safety concerns could be considered, Hite said.
When looking at the list, North Philadelphia appears to have taken the biggest hit with 18 of the 37 schools on the list. Northeast Philadelphia seems to have been the least impacted.
Ten high schools including Germantown, Strawberry Mansion, University City, Bok Technical and the Philadelphia Military Academy at Elverson will be closing and eight middle schools will be closed and folded into elementary schools to create K-8 programs.
Programs such as the Military Academy will be folded into other schools and all of the reconfigured schools will be given financial help to aid in their transitions, Hite said. About 17,000 students stand to be impacted by the closures.
While he understands that there will be parents and community members angered by his decision, parents have issued a referendum to the School District by voting to take their kids out of district schools and moving them to either charters or private locations, Hite said.
Closing unneeded schools and applying money toward programs that work might move the enrollment needle in the opposite direction, Hite said.
“We want to make the school district an option for parents by improving problem areas,” he said.
In a statement after the closures were announced, Mayor Michael Nutter praised Hite and his team for making some tough decisions. While the changes will be hard on communities and families, the time had come for the district to act, he said.
“We couldn’t afford to kick that can down the road,” he said.
Public hearings on the plan are scheduled to take place in January and February, Hite said. The District could make a decision on the closures as early as March.