Nine public schools put on chopping block

The School District of Philadelphia proposed a plan yesterday to close nine schools over the next four years and change grades at several others to partially deal with declining enrollment.

The district has 70,000 empty seats due mostly to growing charter enrollment and is using just 68 percent of its building capacity, with the goal of getting to 85 percent. The much anticipated — and soon-to-be much debated — proposed facilities master plan would address about 7,300 seats, but leaves much more work to be done.

Officials said the work was long overdue and would help put more resources into schools.

“To not address those (economic realities) would be avoiding what we think is good stewardship,” Acting Superintendent Leroy Nunery said of the plan.

The criteria for closure included the condition of the buildings, academic performance, enrollment and population decline, neighborhood impact and nine other factors, officials said. Specific data on the schools slated for closure was not provided yesterday, but officials said it will be made available online over the next few weeks.

Students at closed schools would be offered at least two re-assignment options and teachers would be reassigned in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement. Community members will have three months to provide input before the School Reform Commission is expected to vote on the final plan next spring.

“The SRC must refrain from placing business needs above educational needs,” said Deborah Hopkins, of state Rep. Kenyatta Johnson’s office, objecting to the planned closure of E.M. Stanton Elementary in Johnson’s South Philadelphia district.

List of schools

Schools slated for closure by the 2012-13 school year are:

Levering Elementary in Roxborough

Harrison Elementary in North Philadelphia

Sheppard Elementary in Fairhill

Drew Elementary in West Philadelphia

E.M. Stanton Elementary in Center City

Fitzsimons High in North Philadelphia

Schools slated for closure beyond the 2012-13 school year are:

Sheridan West Academy in Frankford

Philadelphia High School for Business in Center City

Pepper Middle School in Southwest Philadelphia

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