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More closings in 2014? No decision yet

By Paul Socolar on Jan 3, 2014 06:31 PM

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 A vote to close Stanton took place just two months later, while the Beeber recommendation was withdrawn.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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Comments (10)

Submitted by Education Grad ... on January 3, 2014 6:06 pm
Utilization rate is very difficult to quantify. An issue that I heard discussed at some of the community meetings was classroom utilization. I heard a principal at a meeting dispute the District's utilization calculations for his school at a meeting and he was right because his building was fully utilized. I spent time in that building myself. Regular education grade classrooms have higher utilization rates than self-contained special education classrooms. However, the state has certain caseload limits in place. For example, the maximum caseload size for Autistic Support is 8 students plus 1 classroom assistant and 8 per teacher plus two classroom assistants for Multiple Disabilities Support. I have yet to receive a clear explanation of how the District calculates utilization and whether there is a penalty for special education. If someone from the Notebook can answer this question about special education and utilization, I would be very grateful.
Submitted by linda (not verified) on January 3, 2014 6:15 pm
If the SRC plans to close schools, do any of us really think that there will be any time to stop it from happening?....will we be told in a reasonable amount of time? Beeber did not close for one reason....the idea of putting 7th and 8th graders at Overbrook High fell flat when a child [age 19] was shot and killed at the park across the street that is utilized by Overbrook School on a sunny Thursday afternoon in June of 2013. Suddenly is is viable to keep Beeber open and add SLA in the building to "utilize" it. Folks talk a good game but the follow through is all drama based. Linda K.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on January 3, 2014 10:19 pm
That decision has already been made. The shot callers are the big money folks far above the politicians but the pols will do as told.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 4, 2014 11:49 pm
I believe you. Linda K.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 4, 2014 7:21 pm
How many charter schools are on the list to be closed?
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on January 5, 2014 12:55 am
The charters that make money for the pols/operators will NEVER close, at least not until the people take action, real action not filing complaints to the same people who are abusing us. This farce won't end until we end it and it WILL get ugly.
Submitted by PhilaPublicSchoolParent (not verified) on January 5, 2014 3:21 pm
Simultaneously charters slated for closure have a very lengthy appeals process that appears to take years (e.g. Community Academy, Truebright). District public schools are put on the chopping block despite better records and taking all students. If Anthony Hardings' SB 1085 passes, it will be the death sentence for neighborhood public schools. Philadelphia School so-called partnership and their $230,000/year CEO Gleason is licking its chops...
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on January 5, 2014 7:53 pm
Yes, Chris Hedges calls for a "Popular Uprising" against this corporate bull rush on our basic civil rights and especially in the inner cities where despair, poverty and blatant corruption ride together. For sure, doing nothing of consequence to combat it, will result in more abuse. This is all about making money for the already rich who have bought the crooked pols to do their dirty work. Our friend, Obama, is a total disgrace at best.
Submitted by tom-104 on January 5, 2014 7:36 pm
"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them." Fredrick Douglas
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 7, 2014 1:47 pm
Reporters should also report enrollment rates of all schools receiving public dollars -underutilization of charter AND cyber schools. Show the public the real truth…include some graphics and maps to highlight the areas of the city. Tell the whole story and not just pieces of it.

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