School closings update, public and Catholic

    In Philadelphia, the big education news is all about closings, as both the public and Catholic school systems grapple with multimillion-dollar deficits, declining enrollments and an inventory of school buildings erected for a much more populous city.

    Our partners over at the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, in conjunction with our other partners at PlanPhilly, report on the dilemma confronting the School Reform Commission, now nearing the end of the 17 public meetings its held on school closings.

    As Dale Mezzacappa and Oliver Wang note, “The District … wants to make its final decision soon, but under the school code must have a three-month wait between the formal hearing on any closures and the official SRC vote. Neither the hearing nor the final vote has yet been scheduled, and the end of the school year is less than five months away. The SRC has the power to suspend the school code. But that could draw a legal challenge.”

    Stay tuned for how the SRC, stocked with new members given the extremely difficult task of presiding over a shrinking school system already failing so many students and communities, resolves this timing quandary.

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    In the meantime, the next public SRC meeting to discuss the public school closings and consolidations comes Tuesday, February 7th, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Frankford High School. And the final such meeting takes place next week, Wednesday, Feb. 15th, from 6 to 8 p.m., at Ben Franklin High School.

    Meanwhile, a similar dynamic is underway at the Catholic schools. There, as in the School District of Philadelphia, communities of parents and students at schools on the chopping block are rallying to pressure administrators to keep their beloved campuses open. But in the Catholic school system, a formal appeal process is underway, with about half of the Catholic schools targeted for closing appealing the Archdioce of Philadelphia’s decision.

    Stay tuned, as Philadelphia communities continue to wrestle with which schools survive this cull, and which schools close their doors in response to the twin pressures of debt and demography.

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