17,000 Students Impacted by School District Closings, Reorganization
Superintendent William Hite addresses the public about school closings.
About 17,000, or 10 percent, of public school students will feel the impact if a massive overhaul for the School District of Philadelphia goes into effect, the superintendent said in a news conference Thursday.
On the heels of announcing that 37 buildings will close and 18 grade configurations could take place if the School Reform Commission adopts the recommendations, Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite said the district "embarks on a difficult process, a process that will rightsize the district."
Since taking the top schools position in September, Hite had to get up-to-speed with a facilities problem that annually bled the district of money. The restructuring plan considered the best way to improve the district academically and financially, he said.
"I know this will be shocking, painful, emotional and disruptive for many communities, not least all of our students, families and staff," Hite said. "But we will be better run, safer and higher performing in the end."
Twenty-two elementary schools, four middle schools and 11 high schools will permanently close, if the plan is approve in full. Others will move or shift grades.
The move improves facility utilization from 68 percent to 80 percent. Additionally, the district estimates a $28 million annual savings from the move. Hite said that doesn't include the retirement of leases that saves money and also the expense to set-up "quality education programs" at the remaining schools.
Hite said that "minimal teacher layoffs" are planned for the 2013-14 round of closures. However, principals and support staff may lose jobs. He couldn't talk numbers, he said, because normal attrition from retirees won't be known until after the school year. The district often hires about 1,000 teachers and 30 administrators before the academic year begins, he said.
The vacant buildings—like Germantown or Lankenau High Schools—will become part of the district's surplus property. Hite said the school district will work with the city's economic development team and communicate with neighbors on what they desire for the properties.
Over the coming weeks and months, many public forums will be scheduled for taxpayers to comment. Four meetings for citywide info will happen soon. After that, a series of eight community meetings will take place in January for resident questions. In February, the district will hold eight more to report back.
The final recommendations won't be given to the SRC until the meetings are held. The governing body will take up the issue in April, and could accept all, some or none of the plan.