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District won’t propose any school closings this year

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

For the second year in a row, School District of Philadelphia officials will not be proposing any closures of District schools.

"At this time, we are not making any recommendations to close schools next year," School District spokesperson Fernando Gallard confirmed in an email, without elaboration.

In 2012-13, battling declining enrollments and a $300 million budget gap, the District closed two dozen schools in an effort to rein in costs and address underutilization. The closings sent ripples through the city, sparking mass protests from outraged communities and displacing thousands of students. But the move was supported by Mayor Nutter and others who viewed the closings as a necessity for a cash-starved school system.

Last school year, when Superintendent William Hite announced in January that he would not be recommending any closures to the School Reform Commission, which presides over such decisions, he said the District’s main priority would shift to "bolstering" neighborhood schools.

Since 2010-11, the School District has shuttered 30 school buildings. In those four years, the District’s enrollment has declined by one-sixth, or more than 25,000 students. In terms of percentages, the decline in staffing has been even more severe; the District has shed 7,000 positions, a drop of 30 percent.

The District continues to face a budget shortfall, with a projected deficit of $71 million in 2015-16. On Thursday evening at 5:30, the School District will present its five-year financial plan at the December SRC meeting.

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