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District prepares to invest $1.5 billion for new schools and major renovations

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The School District will be spending as much as $300 million per year over the next five years in a massive effort to improve the system’s facilities.

The District used available condition information to prioritize proposed projects like replacement buildings and major renovations. The District held public hearings on the plan in January, and a revised plan will go to the School Reform Commission for approval. With SRC approval, projects scheduled for 2003 will move forward. A program manager will be hired to oversee the entire program, and community participation will be sought on each project.

Proposals for future years will be reviewed through a public process each fall. A full facility condition assessment will be conducted in 2003 to guide further planning.

Major objectives of the capital plan include:

  • Improving high school options by increasing the availability of smaller schools serving 800-1000 students.
  • Phasing out middle schools by converting them to small high schools or elementary schools, and by making more elementary schools K-8.
  • Constructing new elementary schools, additions, and annexes to relieve overcrowding.
  • Getting existing buildings in good repair.

City residents will provide the overwhelming majority of funds for the project through the sale of bonds.

Over 70 percent of Philadelphia’s schools are more than 50 years old. The School District had virtually no capital investment between 1978 and 1984 and minimal capital investment in the following years up to 1996.

Below is the list of schools that will undergo changes.

Schools to close (4)

Durham Elementary School

Elverson Middle School (to be phased

out one grade per year)

E.M. Stanton Elementary School

Walton Elementary School

Savings: $3 million a year

New and replaced high schools (11)


Dates = anticipated completion dates

South – regular (2005)

West – disciplinary (2003)

Northeast – regular (2006)

Southwest – regular (2005) (includes
creation of K-12 campus with Tilden
and Bartram)

Northwest or South – military (2007)


Dates = anticipated completion dates

Ben Franklin (2005)

Carver H.S. of Engineering &
Science (2005)

West Philadelphia (2006)

Kensington (2007)

Dobbins (2005)

Audenried (no date specified)

Cost: $386 million

Major high school renovations (13)

Dates = start/completion

George Washington (2003-2005)

Gratz (2003-2005)

Roxborough (2003-2005)

Fels (2003-2005)

University City (2003-2005)

Olney (2003-2005)

Strawberry Mansion (2003-2005)

Germantown (2004-2006)

Central (2004-2005)

William Penn (2005-2007)

King (2005-2007)

Mastbaum (2005-2007)

Lincoln (2006-2007)

Cost: $140 million

Possible high school renovations (8)

Dates not yet determined




S. Philadelphia




Cost: $38 million

Conversions to high schools (9)

Dates = dates for conversion, work to be phased over multiple years as appropriate

Sayre Middle School (2003)

Vaux Middle School (2003)

Wanamaker Middle School (2003)

Rhodes Middle School (2006)

Pepper Middle School (2006)

Rush Middle School (2007)

Pickett Middle School (2006)

FitzSimons Middle School (2006)

Turner Middle School (2007)

Cost: $60 million

New and replaced elementary schools (9)

(5 new additions also planned)

Dates = start dates

Hunter (underway)

Willard (2003)

Feltonville/Central East K-8 (2003)


5 more to be announced

Improvements to school grounds (10)

King High School

Duckrey Elementary School

Fell Elementary School

McKinley Elementary School

Meade Elementary School

Mifflin Elementary School

Mitchell Elementary School

Thomas Middle School

Turner Middle School

Wilson Middle School

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