Schools closing, Byko on bike share, Assumption distress, and stricter commercial zoning

Good morning, Streeters. Here’s what’s making news this morning:

The School District of Philadelphia announced plans to close 37 schools and reorganize others across the city, reports the Inquirer’s Kristen Graham. The District proposes closing 11 high schools, four middle schools, and 22 elementary schools. “The superintendent said all closing decisions were made with two goals in mind – improving academics throughout the district and ensuring its long-term financial viability,” Graham writes. “ Schools targeted include well-known ones with long histories, such as Bok, Germantown, Strawberry Mansion, and University City high schools. Under the proposal, North Philadelphia would be hit particularly hard, while the overcrowded Northeast would be spared but for the closure of an annex of Carnell Elementary that houses middle school students.” Between now and the end of February 20 public meetings are already scheduled about the closures. As the Public School Notebook reports, 44 schools would close or change, representing 17,000 students, and for many the news is still sinking in.

Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky actually supports the city’s bike-share plans, but bellyaches about his tax dollars going to the program’s $9 million startup costs. “Without breaking a sweat, I can name a half-dozen better uses for that money: decent shelter for the homeless, firefighter salaries, upgrades to an energy-efficient regional rail, training programs for ex-cons, music instruments for schools, replacements for street signs missing from far too many of our intersections.”

Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron opines that the distressing push to demolish the Church of the Assumption does not bode well for other similar historic buildings. “The eagerness with which the church’s various owners and the city have embraced demolition is not just unseemly, it also sends a disheartening message about Philadelphia’s dozens of other vacant religious buildings. If a certified historic landmark like the Church of the Assumption can’t be saved, can any survive?”

In a split vote at Thursday’s Rules Committee meeting Councilman Brian O’Neill some of use restrictions zoning he sought for commercial districts, reports PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey. Like O’Neill, Councilman Bill Green served on the Zoning Code Commission but Green opposes O’Neill’s bill, saying: “There was a lot of time and effort spent on getting this right at the Zoning Code Commission and I think it should have had the opportunity to play out. So it’s disappointing to me that we’re already amending it. Some of Councilman O’Neill’s amendments in fact went back and were more restrictive than the zoning code we replaced, which is exactly the opposite of the intent of everything we worked on for four years.”

The Buzz is Eyes on the Street’s morning news digest. Have a tip? Send it along.

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