This page is the place to keep up with the facilities master planning process that was launched by the School District in 2010 and continues still in 2013.
In its latest phase, the District is proposing to close or relocate as many as 44 schools in time for September 2013.
Since 2010, the District has been working on a facilities master plan designed to "right-size" its physical plant. Officials say the goal is to maximize educational availability, quality, and equity. The plan will involve closing, consolidating, and selling schools. The District has estimated that it has as many as 70,000 empty seats in school buildings and would like to reduce that number significantly.
Decisions on how to manage these changes call for wide community dialogue and close collaboration between the School District and city government. State law mandates public input on decisions to close schools, including a public announcement, a public hearing and a 90-day window for comment before schols can be closed. But past school closing decisions have not always been preceded by a robust public discussion.
In 2011-12, the Notebook partnered with PlanPhilly to cover this process and inform and help foster that dialogue. Articles on the facilities plan are found on both organizations' websites. In 2012-13, the Notebook has continued that coverage, as closings are proposed on an even wider scale.
The Notebook's coverage of school facilities and closings has been supported by grants from the William Penn Foundation for 2011-12 and the Thomas Skelton Harrison Foundation for 2012. Neither foundation exercised control over the content of this coverage.
District officials set off alarm bells across the city last month when they announced as part of their facilities master planning process that the new recommended student enrollment for high schools will be between 1,000 and 1,200 students.
With only five of the District’s 61 high schools currently falling within that range, the announcement seemed to portend sweeping changes – and perhaps the end of Philadelphia’s small high schools.
The School District has announced its first steps to "rightsize" the District's physical plant, setting in motion a new facilities master plan that is expected to close as many as 50 buildings.
No schools will be closed in the 2011-12 school year, but officials said they intend to cut 35,000 seats by 2014.
"This is not the right time to just launch into closing buildings … unless you have a good plan," said Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery in April.
It is not yet entirely clear how the School District of Philadelphia will handle the biggest downsizing in its history. As many as 50 facilities are slated to be sold off in coming years, but the district has no plans to identify them until October, and the policy governing those sales remains a work in progress.
Will the process be transparent? Will neighborhoods have a real say? Will politically favored developers and non-profits have an inside track? It is simply too soon to say.