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District reduces number of planned school closings from 37 to 29

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

[Updated: 2:55 p.m.]

The Philadelphia School District has released a new closings plan, lowering the number of schools it plans to close from an initial 37 down to 29, after weeks of contentious community meetings and public protests.

Ten schools escaped the closings list, but two schools not previously named are now targeted for closing: M.H. Stanton Elementary in North Philadelphia and Beeber Middle in Wynnefield.

​The new plan would have Beeber students move to Overbrook High School, which would serve grades 7-12 and take students from Cassidy, Gompers, and Overbrook elementaries (the latter two now removed from the closings list).

Penn Treaty Middle School will become a "middle secondary school" under the revised plan – receiving 9th-11th graders from Carroll and Douglas high schools, which are both still targeted for closure.

Five schools in North Philadelphia that were slated to close — Duckrey, Meade, Morris, Strawberry Mansion High, and the Military Academy at Elverson — will remain open. Vaux High School, slated for conversion to an elementary school, will instead close. Changes in the region will also result in shifts in which schools receive displaced students.

McCloskey, Cooke and McMichael elementaries were the other schools spared under the new plan.

The District modified its plan for University City High School, where students had urged the District to allow them to stay together as a community. The plan for University City now reads: "Students in grades 9 through 11 who wish to remain together will be offered assignment at Benjamin Franklin High School."

Two schools slated for relocation will be allowed to stay at their current sites: Lankenau High School and AMY at James Martin.

But keeping those two buildings open will be offset by the closing of Vaux and Roosevelt Middle School, which had been proposed as the site for a consolidated military academy. While some of the closing schools are in buildings that will remain in use for some other program, in all 29 buildings will close and presumably be put up for sale.

Highlighting the outpouring of feedback and alternative proposals, Superintendent William Hite said in a statement:

I am grateful for the time and energy that our community spent voicing their concerns about the Facilities Master Plan. Although I wish we could have avoided closing any school, I do believe that the amended recommendations address the concerns from many parents, students and residents. I hope that we can move forward in minimizing disruption for our students and providing better options for families.

Here is the revised plan’s breakdown of the changes to the closings and relocations by planning region:

North-Central (West of Broad)
Meade Elementary School, Duckrey Elementary School, Morris Elementary School, and Strawberry Mansion High School will remain open. Vaux will not become a K-8 elementary school; the program and building are recommended for closure.

Furthermore, a new recommendation – the closure of M.H. Stanton’s program and building – is being added. This recommendation will not be included in the set of actions to be considered and voted on by the School Reform Commission on March 7, but will receive a vote at a later date.

North-Central (East of Broad)
The Philadelphia Military Academies will merge at the Elverson building. As a result, the Elverson building will remain open. AMY at James Martin will remain at its current location and expand its enrollment.

Lankenau will remain at its current location. McCloskey Elementary School will remain open and expand its grade organization to become a K-8 elementary school. Cooke Elementary School will remain open at its current location. The Roosevelt building will be closed rather than converted into a high school building for use by the Philadelphia Military Academies.

The District is no longer recommending that Beeber be converted into a K-8 elementary school. Gompers will remain open at its present location. Overbrook Elementary will remain open at its present location. McMichael will remain open at its present location. Furthermore, a new recommendation – the closure of Beeber Middle School’s program and building — is being added. This recommendation will not be included in the set of actions to be considered and voted on by the SRC on March 7, but will receive a vote at a later date.

There were no changes to the recommendations for the South-Central, Southwest, and Northeast regions.

The projected savings from the revised plan are $24.5 million, down $3.5 million from the initial recommendations. The District acknowledges that savings will be "much lower" in the first year due to transition costs.