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Concerns still abound as District nears school closings

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

In June, the District will close 24 schools for good, displacing about 14,000 students. But concerns over its transition plans have mounted.

One of the biggest fears has been for student safety. On May 7, District safety chief Cynthia Dorsey addressed those issues before the Philadelphia Home and School Council.

According to Council president Rosemarie Hatcher, Dorsey discussed District meetings with community members and parents, and how receiving and closing schools are holding events to ensure a smooth transition.

Not all who attended were happy about what they heard. “I heard parents ask why, when mapping out a plan of this magnitude, were all safety factors not considered from the start,” said Hatcher.

“Some parents do not trust what the District and Chief [Dorsey] have to say. It sounds good, but only time will tell.”

Superintendent William Hite’s original closure list of 37 schools shrank to 23 after community feedback and the SRC vote. But Beeber Middle School and M.H. Stanton Elementary were added to the list in February. In April, the District modified the list again, removing Beeber after reviewing an alternative plan for expanding the school.

Now the District is reconfiguring Beeber for 7th and 8th graders only (eliminating the 6th grade) and co-locating a new high school campus of Science Leadership Academy at Beeber.

Stanton was not spared; the SRC voted to close the once-celebrated North Philadelphia school, featured in an Oscar-winning documentary.

To prepare for the closings, the SRC also voted in May to approve a $4.2 million contract with various vendors to provide relocation services for closing schools. The contract is renewable through 2018, suggesting that more closings could happen.

Hatcher said she “hopes for the best” and wants the District to “keep responding to the needs of the families … and continue to push for more money so we do not have to repeat this again.”

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