After nearly three months of community meetings, counterproposals and public testimony, the city’s School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on a series of right-sizing recommendations made by the severely cash-strapped School District of Philadelphia.
The 5:30 p.m. meeting is a big one for residents in Northwest Philadelphia, where four schools could close. A total of 29 are on the chopping block.
Much has happened, however, following the district’s mid-December announcement.
Need to catch up on how the school-closure plan played out in Northwest Philadelphia? We’ve got you covered with the following timeline:
1. Northwest Philly reacts to Philadelphia school closings proposal, Dec. 13, 2012
Philadelphia schools superintendent William Hite announces that the district wants to close 37 schools by the end of the academic year, including six in Northwest Philadelphia. In Germantown, Theodore Roosevelt Middle School, Robert Fulton Elementary and Germantown High School are slated to close. John F. McCloskey and John L. Kinsey elementaries in West Oak Lane and Jay Cooke Elementary in Logan are also on the list.
Several dozen members of the Germantown High School community — students, parents, teachers and alumni — gather at the school’s High Street building to begin a multi-month fight to keep the nearly century-old institution open. The “Save Germantown High School” coalition is created soon afterwards.
Superintendent Hite and district officials discuss the school-closure plan with hundreds of residents during a packed citywide information session at Martin Luther King High School in West Oak Lane, which is where some GHS students would go if their school closes. Concerns are raised about safety and class size. Audience members also offer up counterproposals, including one that suggests using Germantown High’s building for a K-8 school.
The “Save the Germantown High School” coalition hosts a “vigil” outside of the school’s Germantown Avenue border. It’s the first of three neighborhood-based events aimed at calling attention to the district’s recommendation. State Rep. Stephen Kinsey (D-Philadelphia), a Germantown High alum, and Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass are among the 50 attendees.
Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who represents much of Northwest Philadelphia, tells NewsWorks that she wants the district to delay its school-closings plan. Bass says she’s concerned that the District’s recommendations were made “with haste and without considering many important intangible factors.” She wants the District to use the time to better publicize the process. City Council passes a resolution — 14-2 — echoing Bass’ sentiments during the body’s Jan. 24 meeting.
Superintendent Hite and district officials return to MLK’s auditorium for another packed community meeting aimed at explaining the district’s plan and discussing related concerns. Hite addresses Council’s call for a moratorium and hears about the distance certain students will have to travel if their school is closed.
Members of the Fulton Elementary and Germantown High School communities meet with district officials to present alternatives to shutting down both schools and Roosevelt. Both groups are interested in consolidating students from all three schools at the GHS building. District officials tell residents that “we’re taking everything into consideration.”
Superintendent Hite and district officials meet with residents at MLK for the third and final time. Hundreds again fill the school’s West Oak Lane auditorium. Attendees express concerns about safety and call into question the district’s decision-making process.
A NewsWorks report examines how making the school-closings proposal work would mean that “thousands of students will be forced to cross turf boundaries, then sit in class alongside neighborhood adversaries.” The second part of the story looked at the issue from a historical perspective.
After “evaluating feedback from the community meetings, alternate proposals, projected utilization and savings goals,” Superintendent Hite announces that 10 schools on the original school closure list are now safe from the chopping block. The list includes McCloskey and Jay Cooke elementaries. A total of 29 schools may now close. The district also nixes its recommendation to co-locate Lankenau High School in Roxborough at Roxborough High School.
The SRC holds three public hearings on the district’s program and school closures. Members of the Germantown community testify, including state Rep. Stephen Kinsey, who tells commissioners to “work with us” to keep his alma mater open. Representatives from Roosevelt, Fulton and Kinsey also address the independent body. Concerns about the future of public education in central Germantown are raised by multiple speakers.
Teachers at Fulton Elementary join fellow members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers for a rally aimed at keeping the school open. The “Walk in My Shoes” protest specifically highlights the time it will take for Fulton students to reach their new school if Fulton is closed.