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 have identified more than 20 schools as prime targets for closure next year, according to a confidential document (part 1, 2, 3, 4) obtained by the Notebook and authenticated by a District spokesperson.
For months, District officials have declared that they were not far enough along in their planning to share school-specific recommendations with the public. But the comprehensive 35-page "options report," dated March 18, details a preliminary but sweeping strategy based around 84 possible action steps including school closures, consolidations, boundary changes, and grade reconfigurations.
The key building blocks of the School District's new facilities master plan are now in place.
Monday night, the School Reform Commission (SRC) unanimously approved new "Adaptive Reuse" and "Rightsizing" policies without comment. Taken together, the policies will guide the District's efforts to close and sell up to 50 school buildings as part of a broad effort to reduce by half its current number of "empty seats," currently estimated at 70,000.
For the past year, City Hall has regarded the looming closure of up to 50 public school buildings as a headache on the horizon: an issue that was sure to generate controversy, but not worth worrying about just yet.
Now, though, the School District’s budget crisis has put the school closings issue back on the political agenda.