Brickyard. Dogtown. Haines Street. Somerville.
For thousands of teens in Northwest Philadelphia, the names signify a potent mix of neighborhood loyalty, turf rivalry, and gang conflict that has been passed down for generations.
Take Dayton Melton.
The 15-year-old hails from Brickyard, in lower Germantown.
Melton says he’s fought kids from Somerville, on the other side of Chew Avenue, dozens of times.
Her neighborhood school was targeted for closing, and Dawn Hawkins was angry. As she confronted Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite at a community meeting, she was clear about one reason why.
Philadelphia School District officials say that closing buildings will save them millions of dollars a year.
But a closer look at the numbers shows that the lion’s share of savings will come from eliminating jobs.
Officials have been adamant that their Facilities Master Plan, which would close 37 schools and relocate seven more, is a financial necessity that will ultimately save the District $28 million annually – but less in the first year.
These are days stretching into weeks of uncertainty for hundreds of teachers in the 44 schools slated to be shuttered or relocated under the Facilities Master Plan before the School Reform Commission.
Will their school be closed?
Will they be laid off?
Where will they land?
The Philadelphia School District’s plan for surviving its fiscal crunch is simple: Less must be more.
And while the proposal to close or relocate 44 schools makes it clear how the District wants to handle part of the “less” side of the equation, just exactly how it will deliver on the promise of “more” is yet to be explained.
Common sense dictates that the School District should be looking for opportunities to close crumbling schools that are half-empty and underperforming. In a cash-starved system with a shrinking population and aging facilities, we can’t afford not to.
Officials acknowledge that closing schools is painful but say that once we get through it, we’ll all be better off with a streamlined system – and the District will be poised to improve its fortunes.