This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
The Philadelphia School District announced Friday that it would not recommend any school closures for the upcoming school year.
"We’re operating this year under the principle that any closure or move must result in students moving to higher-performing schools," said Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite during a telephone interview with reporters.
This philosophical rationale is a vast departure from that previously employed by Hite.
Since Hite became superintendent, the District has shuttered 30 schools – 24 in 2013 and six in 2012.
Those decisions, Hite acknowledged, were based purely on the attempt to increase efficiency by improving the district’s overall utilization rate — a building’s actual enrollment compared with its potential capacity.
Last year, District schools were 67 percent utilized. This year, after 24 closures, that rate ticked up to 74 percent.
But while that "straight-utilization" philosophy helped the District reduce its operating expenses, the rationale didn’t come without costs.
In making the announcement, Hite admitted that last year’s closures shuffled some students to lesser-performing schools.
"One of the things that we’re finding is there’s consequences to all of these actions," said Hite. "If, in fact, we only base this on utilization … then parents are more likely to move out of the area or pull their children out of those schools and put them in other places."