The Philadelphia Student Union Responds: Students Say Too Many Unanswered Questions

Now is the moment that we, the Philadelphia Student Union, a member of PCAPS (Philly Coalition Advocating for Public Schools), have been bracing ourselves for: The School District has announced its list of schools that will face closure or transformation in the spring. In August, the Philadelphia School District released a document that summarized the recommendations of the Boston Consulting Group, an outside firm hired to radically overhaul the district’s business operations and delivery of education. These recommendations included closing up to 64 schools over the next five years and divvying up those that remain among “achievement networks”, which have yet to be fully defined.

Members of the Philadelphia Student Union have found that there are many more questions than answers when it comes to the School District’s restructuring plan. The Philadelphia Student Union has demanded a moratorium on school closings until a full study of the costs, both fiscal and otherwise, has been completed and a real effort to understand the feedback of the communities most affected by these closures has been undertaken.

When and if schools are closed there are serious questions that the District will have to confront. As students are moved from one school to another, we want the District to consider what combining schools means for school climate and safety. “They haven’t said anything about how they are going to deal with violence that may pop up when students from different neighborhoods are crammed into the same building,” says Adam Mitchell, a senior, at West Philadelphia High School. School closures in other cities have resulted in an increase in violence due to the immediate influx of students from other neighborhoods.

Students will also have to travel farther to reach their school, presenting further issues for transportation and safety. Despite being abandoned by too many of our elected officials, many public schools still anchor tightly knit neighborhoods throughout the city. Closing these schools, as the SRC/BCG plan proposes, would only serve to displace thousands of students, jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of families, and weaken already struggling neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, state funding for education continues to be slashed, even as state revenues rise. This is nothing new; Public education has been chronically under-funded for decades. “We should be fixing the problems in our schools and continuing what works, not just shutting schools down”, says Basil Hasan, a junior at Sayre High School. It is not a surprise that schools cannot meet increasing academic standards when students are not given the resources to succeed. Instead of closing schools and continuing to under-fund them, we are calling for the District to recommit to the success of young people and fund public education as a priority.

Students, who will be most intimately affected by school closings, are concerned that there are many more questions than there are answers and the District is not providing the answers we need. As Christine Forte, a sophomore from South Philadelphia High School put it, “Until we can find ways to include student voice in this process and have our questions answered, we call for a halt to school closings in Philadelphia.”

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