Philadelphians celebrate 10 schools saved, mourn 29 still to close
Bitter rains dampened Meade Elementary School’s sweet victory. Students, parents and educators celebrated on the school’s steps, as theirs was one of 10 buildings spared from closure. Under rain and strong winds, the mood took a turn from happy to gloomy as they were reminded of the 29 other public schools that weren’t so lucky.
“One person on the cell phone walking by said, ‘Thank God our school is saved,’ and then another, “My school’s closing!’” said Arlene Kempin, vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, under an umbrella just outside the hooplah.
The Philadelphia Public School District announced its recommendation yesterday that 29 schools close instead of 37. The plan would close 29 buildings, which includes 15 elementary schools, five middle schools, nine high schools and one lease termination.
“I like our outcome, but it could have been better,” said Ieshia Brumfield, whose son attends Meade.
The district said it would need to change a number of grade configurations in coordination with the 29 closures.
The reduction of proposed closings would result in a lower amount of savings. The district now projects it will save approximately $24.5 million annually instead of $28 million.
School District Spokesman Fernando Gallard said the district was careful as it selected which schools to close.
“It’s hard,” he said, “But we think it’s the right thing to do for the community.”
The School Reform Commission, which is the governing body of the school district and is based in Harrisburg, will hold a public hearing on all building and program closures on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The hearings will be held at the School District of Philadelphia Education Center at 440 N. Broad Street. The SRC is expected to make a decision on the proposal on March 7th.
Ten schools that evaded the chopping block include Cooke, Duckrey, Gompers, Meade, Morris, McMichael and Overbrook elementary schools; Alternative For Middle Years at James Martin School; Lankenau and Strawberry Mansion high schools.
McCloskey Elementary School will also remain, but it will transition into a K-8 school.
M.H. Stanton elementary school and Beeber middle school will be considered for closure at a later date.
By the numbers
The school district anticipates it will save $24.5 million annually under the new plan, a difference of about $4 million from the previous plan. The savings won’t start until 2015.