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No school closings this year, says Superintendent Hite

By David Limm on Jan 10, 2014 01:30 PM

After losing two dozen schools last year -- on top of six in 2012 -- the School District of Philadelphia won't be seeing any closings in 2014. 

Superintendent William Hite announced Friday afternoon that the District would not be proposing any school closures this year.  

Emphasizing the need to "bolster" neighborhood schools, Hite said that, this year, the decision was not driven mostly by financial reasons. The District's coping with a $304 million funding shortfall was the prime factor in making school closing decisions before. 

"Everything we do is financial," said Hite.  But "this decision is more making sure that whenever we move students, we're providing a better option for those students, especially academics."

Unable to guarantee that students of closed schools would move to schools with better academic performance, the District could not justify more closings this year, said Hite. 

In 2012, the District recommended 37 schools for closure. Hite acknowledged that a main factor in recommending school closures had been low rates of utilization, which is a building's enrollment as a percentage of the building's capacity. With way more seats than students, the District is unable to efficiently spend its money.

The priority now is getting students into better academic environments and making sure that students who have come from shuttered schools do not end up in worse ones, said Hite.

"If we base decisions only on utilization ... then parents are more likely to move out of the area or pull their children out of those schools," said Hite. "Part of the work we're trying to do in improving all District schools is that we spend 80 to 90 percent of our time on making schools better."

Hite couldn't say with certainty whether more schools would be closed after 2014.


UpdateThe District released the utilization rates for both the current year and last year - the percentage of available seats in District schools that are occupied. The District has said since 2011 that a utilization rate of 85 percent is a goal. 

Utilization rates
  2012-2013 2013-2014
Elementary school 77% 81%
Middle school 46% 59%
High school 58% 65%
Overall 67% 74%
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Comments (14)

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on January 10, 2014 2:50 pm

This is a victory for parents, students, educators and community members who came out in the thousands, at meetings and in the streets to oppose mass school closings.   Hite and the SRC don't want to take on that tiger again.   The derailing of this part of their austerity problem will only be temporary unless we win the fight for funding,  charter school accountability and elect a pro public education Governor this November.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2014 8:54 pm
" and elect a pro public education Governor this November." YES and not any Democrat will suffice. Please let us not make the mistake of electing a 3rd way Democrat (business oriented). Study the choices carefully.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2014 11:47 pm
Think again. It might be a victory for parents and students, but it isn't a victory for the PFT. If he is saying the district will not try to save money through additional closings, then he is expecting the entire current shortfall to come from PFT members through concessions. Let's not kid ourselves. There is no new money in sight. Anywhere.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2014 12:29 am
Jerry jordon made a deal with the sdp, that was one of his stipulations,hite didn't say a thing about the 300 million they need to open up schools next September?? 400 million dollar deficit next year,where the hell is that coming from? ? The teachers going to sell lemonade on the friggen parkway,there getting 133 million or more from the p.f.t. jordons selling the rank and file right down the river. You'll hear about there new contract soon,and they ain't gonna like it yo....
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2014 2:32 am
Absolutely Jordan sold his members out. He does not care about his members or their needs. He is all self-serving and worries only about Jerry and his pathetic PFT leader cronies. Web need to oust all of the leaders of the PFT and AFT soon, before their is no real union representation. Something is brewing behind the scenes and my prediction is, it will not benefit the PFT members and Jordan will claim no school closures and people called back yet get dramatic cuts and lousy working conditions as well as a healthy amount paid to health insurance premiums. Other district unions were able to scrap up a decent deal for their members. All Jordan and crew do is look for excuses for their ineffective, weak, kiss-butt leadership. We are sick of the excuses you PFT officers make up. Get some balls or resign. We would do a lot better without the current PFT/AFT officials,namely, Weingarten, Jordan,Kirsch, etc.
Submitted by HS teach (not verified) on January 11, 2014 11:22 am
Well, there is only one Democrat in the primary who "pro-education". That would be John Hanger. But surprise: he has no chance.
Submitted by tom-104 on January 10, 2014 3:35 pm
Could this be a factor? "Philly schools can't afford to cut more programs, credit agency warns" The Chicago business newspaper had this column: "Chicago doesn't need more school choice" It says: ""CPS now has a shocking 31 new charter proposals on the table to open in the next two years. This should stop us all in our tracks — because district schools will lose more funding and have to face further cuts, which will lead to weaker educational outcomes for many students across Chicago. This is not choice, it's chaos.” This whole "reform" is in trouble if even the business community is bailing.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2014 5:04 pm
SDP lost too large a percentage of students all together thanks to the rash of closings last summer…thousands neither in city public or charter schools this year. They need more time to do the math (again)….including the rise in under-utilization rates when, YUP!, nobody else has time for their "state controlled" b***sh** anymore. Life is short and no time of it shorter than childhood.
Submitted by Morrie Peters (not verified) on January 10, 2014 5:49 pm
What the hell is he spending the other ten to twenty percent of his time on?. There is also an implicit message in his statement that this devotion of 80 t0 90% of his time will be for now on. How much time was spent on bettering schools up to this point?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 10, 2014 11:53 pm
so no need for further lay offs either, right?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2014 12:23 am
As Dr.evil sez, riiiiiiiiight,Jerry jordon made a deal,read in-between lines will yah,pft. Gave up money or gave back benefits or both.jordon sailed p.f.t. right down the river,like a Viking funeral. Smmfh. P.f.t. in deep poop! !!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2014 12:29 am
Of course nite said this,because jerry jordon made a stipulation that in you new contact that he probably just got done signing with the s.d.p. now he's going to sell the p.f.t. right down the river with no guys gave concessions back and don't even know it yet.this is what Jerry jordon asked for in your negotiations. You'll hear about your new contract,soon.jordon sold p.f.t.right down the river DONT RATIFY IT,YOULL REGREAT IT! !!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2014 9:35 am
Maybe Hite has decided not to close schools because he used data from cheating scandal to help determine which schools should close. Closing schools last year did not guarantee sending students to better performing schools.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2014 2:25 pm
Not to Chicken Little here, but is anyone else's gut saying that this announcement is a null point because the SDP is going to declare bankruptcy if not next year then the following year?

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