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Timeline: Closings and controversy

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

January 2011 – Data presented to the School Reform Commission show that the District has 70,000 empty seats, as determined by consultants at URS Corp. and DeJong-Richter. Excess capacity had been estimated at 45,000 in a previous study in 2009. Then-Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery says school closings, consolidations, and co-locations will be considered.

November 2011 – After a year of planning and analysis, the District announces its recommendation to close just nine schools.

March 2012 – After many meetings in which school communities offer impassioned pleas, two schools are spared – Sheppard and E.M. Stanton. The decision is mainly on the grounds that they perform better academically than nearby schools, even though both are in outdated buildings. Six schools are to be closed in 2012 and two phased out.

April 2012 – The District releases a consultant report recommending closure of 64 schools over five years as a matter of financial survival.

Summer 2012 – Drew, Harrison, Levering, FitzSimons, High School for Business, and the high school at Rhodes are closed.

Fall 2012 – The District holds seven community meetings to seek general feedback about more planned closings. More than 500 people participate, answering questions regarding such topics as school co-location, K-8 schools vs. middle schools, and the need for walkable options.

October 2012 – ACTION United files a civil rights complaint against the District alleging that the schools closed in 2012 served a disproportionately high percentage of Black students.

November 2012 – Invoking its special, state-granted powers, the School Reform Commission waives the state requirement that it hold hearings on individual school closings three months before a final decision.

Dec. 13, 2012 – Superintendent William Hite announces the plan to close or relocate 44 schools by September, 2013; 37 buildings will close. In addition, 23 schools will change grade configurations; four will become elementary schools. Some 60 schools will receive students displaced by closings.

Late December 2012 – The District holds four community meetings to explain and hear testimony on the plan. Groups at some targeted schools present counterproposals. The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools releases an alternative plan.

January 2013 – The District holds nine more community meetings, drawing large crowds and heated opposition. Presentations detail the reasons for each school decision. Meetings scheduled for February are cancelled; officials plan to hold roundtable discussions with individual school communities instead. Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, with the District’s approval, holds meetings at the 37 schools slated to close. Enon plans to present a complete report to Hite and the SRC.

Feb. 21-23, 2013 – The SRC schedules individual hearings for each school from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The schedule leaves an average of about 30 minutes for discussion of each of the 44 affected schools.

March 7, 2013 – The SRC is scheduled to vote on the closings recommendations.

Photo credits: Oscar Wang (first photo), Harvey Finkle (second photo) Harvey Finkle (third photo)