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More closings in 2014? No decision yet

There is no word yet on whether the School District plans to recommend additional school closings to the School Reform Commission in 2014. 

"A final decision has not been made yet," said spokesperson Fernando Gallard on Friday.

In each of the last two school years, the District came out with a list of recommended closings in the fall, allowing for public input over the course of a few months before a vote was taken by the SRC. In 2012, the District issued a list of closing recommendations on Dec. 13. In 2011, a list of nine recommended closures was released on Nov. 2. In both cases, SRC votes took place the following March.

But more recently, two closing recommendations were issued much later in the school year. On Feb. 19, 2013, the District added Beeber Middle and M.H. Stanton Elementary to their list of proposed closures. A vote to close Stanton took place just two months later, while the Beeber recommendation was withdrawn.

A decision on a two-month timeline was made possible because in November 2012, the SRC used its special powers to suspend the section of the school code requiring it to hold hearings on individual school closings at least three months before any decision is finalized.  

More school-closing recommendations have been anticipated, based on past statements by District officials. An April 2012 transformation blueprint prepared by District staff and consultants called for the closing of about 40 "unsafe, low-performing, underutilized schools." The District shuttered 24 buildings in June 2013, but many recommendations were met with strong community opposition, and 15 other schools targeted for closure were spared.

Before the closures last year, District officials had said that only two-thirds of the overall available capacity in Philadelphia schools was being used. Officials have said they would like utilization to be at least 85 percent of capacity. 

Gallard said the current utilization rate is not available.

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Paul Socolar

Editor and publisher of the Notebook since 1999, Paul was one of the Notebook’s founders in 1994.