Top questions about school closings: “A year of turmoil and uncertainty”

(Photo: NewsWorks)
(Photo: NewsWorks)

(This post is being updated regularly as new information unfolds)

Read the complete list of school closings here.

This afternoon the district will announce the closing and consolidation of dozens of schools listed above, setting in motion a year of turmoil and uncertainty for thousands of families across the District. We are deeply concerned about the District’s ability to prioritize and re-invest in the District-managed neighborhood schools under its care. While past conversations have discussed facilities modernization and management, this conversation has been primarily on consolidation and closure with far too little mention of what additional resources will flow to schools.

We have significant questions and concerns about the list above:

  1. The stated savings of the school closings (which are typically ambitious according to most studies) is barely 1% of the District’s budget. How does the District justify throwing thousands of families and school communities into chaos for such small savings?
  2. What are the projected administrative costs of the school closings? How have they been factored into the supposed savings numbers being presented?
  3. Last year, the District expanded charters at a projected cost of $139 million over five years. School closings will achieve “savings” of little more than that same amount. Have we expanded charters at a direct cost to our neighborhood schools?
  4. How does the District justify closing five neighborhood schools in zip code 19132 (TM Peirce, LP Hill, Whittier, Pratt & Strawberry Mansion High School) and five neighborhood schools in zip code 19121 (Duckrey, Meade, Reynolds, Morris and Vaux HS, which will convert to an elementary school)? What is the District’s responsibility to the children and families in those neighborhoods?
  5. There are top quality schools on the closure list such as George Washington Elementary School with an SPI of 2 (SPI “1” is considered the best) and Abigail Vare Elementary with an SPI 3. Abigail Vare is perhaps one of the most diverse higher functioning schools in the district (33% black, 23% Latino, 18% Asian, 15% white). In an increasingly racially segregated district, why not support racially diverse successful schools and figure out ways to modernize facilities?
  6. Last year, students from Fitzsimons and Rhodes High Schools saw their high schools closed and were transferred to Strawberry Mansion. This year Strawberry Mansion is slated for closure. A host of young people will now be forced to attend three high schools in three years. How does this make any academic sense?
  7. University City’s closure forces students to criss-cross neighborhood boundaries in West Philadelphia that should be accompanied by a full discussion on student safety and transportation. How has this been thought through?
  8. How does the District justify blindsiding the Germantown High School community about the slated closure of this flagship school? Parents and community should not be the last to know while third party operators, Boston Consulting Group and others crow about their access and influence on this list:
  9. What is the District’s commitment to providing transportation to students throughout this consolidation and closing process? How can parents remain confident about transportation and access when schools like GAMP are threatened with losing bus service?
  10. Where is the investment back into neighborhoods schools? For example, its been suggested that proceeds of sale go toward debt service. Why would the money not go toward modernizing the facilities of the primary school students would attend?

As we said in our statement yesterday: This is a process that has marginalized parents. It is not clear that the District will achieve significant financial and academic gains. We cannot discern a demonstrated re-investment and commitment to the District-managed public schools which remain and which are responsible for absorbing new students and responsibilities. And we have lasting concerns about whose voices mattered when this final list was created.

Parents United for Public Education supports the PCAPS rally this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. at 440 N. Broad Street.

Media coverage:


Education Week: Philadelphia to close 37 schools as part of sweeping overhaul


Notebook: “District wants to close 37 schools and relocate, reconfigure dozens more

Associated Press: “Amid cuts, Philadelphia to close 37 public schools

Inquirer: “One in six public schools could close

Metro: Shrinking schools offered to save $28M annually


Media Mobilizing Project: “In wake of school closures announcement, rally for public education

8 thoughts on “Top questions about school closings: “A year of turmoil and uncertainty”

  1. What plans have been made for transportation? e.g. 5th and 6th graders from Kelly (5116 Pulaski Ave) are 5 miles away from Leeds (1100 E Mt Pleasant Ave)

    1. I attended the news conference given by Dr. Hite yesterday. He stated that transportation will be proved where warranted. ????

  2. As a homeowner in the 19121 zip code, the area that you mention is going to have 5 closings, I WELCOME this move. Vaux HS, slated for closure, is a perennially unsafe, underperforming, and underutilized school. With 350 students in a building of over 1,000, and a proficiency rating at an abysmal 10% (even after district turnaround programs), it makes sense to close this school. I am not hurt, offended, or shocked that this is happening in the neighborhood, honestly, it makes sense and I welcome the change.

      1. I don’t have kids, but I am not the deciding factor on these school closures, it’s the parents and students in the Vaux catchment area. In the catchment, a supermajority of parents with high school children have determined that the school cannot provide an education for their sons and daughters and do not enroll their children in the school. While the Vaux catchment has 727 high school aged residents, only 206 attend Vaux, representing 28% of the students in the area. The vast majority, 72% have decided that Vaux does not provide the safe, thriving learning environment that these parents demand. The parents of Vaux have voted, not me.

        You’re right, I don’t have kids. While I can only quote numbers and cite facts, kids in the Vaux catchment have to deal with the realities of these facts. They have to deal with attending a high school where few are prepared to graduate and even fewer are able to set their sights on further education. They have to deal with the lawlessness and state of a school that has been in Corrective Action for 10 years. With this, the parents and kids of Vaux have voted, and they have voted overwhelmingly.

  3. These are great questions for the folks in charge to consider. Families at all income levels are fighting hard to prepare their children for the 21st century world. The added stress of this process is unfair and not warranted. I firmly believe that when they are supported, neighborhood schools can work! Philadelphians should not allow outside pressures to turn us into cannibals.

    1. I totally agree with you James – I have always believed that parents and community can help to make a turn around at their neighborhood schools. Unfortunately, they are not brought into the process to do so. Parents and community need to come together and be heard.

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