For Immediate Release: December 14, 2012
PCAPS Students, Parents, Teachers and School Employees Hold Rally to Protest Mass School Closings
Hundreds gathered outside the School District of Philadelphia headquarters on Thursday to urge decision makers to improve local schools, not close them.
Philadelphia, Pa. Hundreds of students, parents, teachers, school employees and concerned citizens gathered outside the School District of Philadelphia’s Broad Street headquarters on Thursday night, protesting the announcement that the District intends to close dozens of public schools and displace 17,000 students.
The rally was organized by the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS), an organization committed to improving Philadelphia schools by seeking input from communities throughout the City and implementing proven successful strategies from school districts around the country.
“As a student, I think the decision to close so many schools could turn out to be more hurtful than helpful,” said Basil Hasan, a junior at William L. Sayre High School. “Many students are upset because they’re going to have to travel further to get to their new school. That means longer bus rides and less time to spend on things like after school activities, homework and chores. This will also be very disruptive to those of us trying to work hard now so we can move on to the next phase of our lives – which for me hopefully will mean college and then veterinary school.”
PCAPS has been urging District leadership and the School Reform Commission to adopt a moratorium on all school closings until full community-impact studies are conducted and released to the public.
The moratorium will be a key component of PCAPS’ forthcoming plan for improving local public schools – a 40-page strategy document based on the content of 1,600 parent, student and citizen surveys, more than two dozen listening sessions, and a series of large town hall meetings held throughout the City. The coalition intends to unveil the plan soon.
“It is imperative that we fully understand the costs associated with maintaining suddenly vacant school buildings – such as upkeep, cleaning or security fees – and the impact these empty buildings will have on surrounding property values,” said Quanisha Smith, a PCAPS representative. “It is essential that we vet the cost of transporting thousands of students to new schools, and determine whether these schools and neighborhoods will be able to effectively absorb an influx of new students.”
The announcement that the District will seek to close 37 schools comes just weeks after it admitted that its rating system, a significant factor in the evaluation and closing process, is flawed and unusable, noted parent and PCAPS volunteer Dawn Hawkins, whose son attends L.P. Hill Elementary School, which is among the schools slated for closing.
“Nothing about this decision will improve the education my son receives. In fact, school closures have never been shown to improve student achievement,” Hawkins said. “The challenges that my children’s schools face are overcrowded classes, inexperienced teachers that lack support, and children coming from poverty and very challenging lives whose needs are not being met.”