School district plans for more or fewer schools by launching citywide review of population trends

Mike DeNardo
May 27, 2019 - 7:15 pm
The School District of Philadelphia.

Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The School District of Philadelphia is taking stock of its school buildings, with an eye toward how population changes will affect enrollment.  

The school district is launching a comprehensive four-year review of its buildings and boundaries, and parents who move into a section of the city because of a school's catchment area should be aware of this new process. 

Few at the school district can remember the last time there was a comprehensive look at school buildings and catchment areas.

Superintendent William Hite says it wasn't done before he arrived.

"When I got here in 2012, I was faced with a decision to have to close a whole bunch of schools because nobody had planned for, previously, the contraction of enrollment at some of our schools although children were going to other places," Hite said. 

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The district will be examining population trends and how full or empty its school buildings are, says the district's chief operating officer Danielle Floyd.

"When you're going to go into this kind of work, it's really important to actually be more forward-thinking and be able to project what are the total number of students we anticipate we'll be educating over the next ten years," Floyd said. 

The district is spending $1.4 million on demographers and enrollment experts to help administrators draft recommendations on whether schools should be built or closed or catchments redrawn, says Hite.

"You just can't add on. You have to make some decisions, looking at the long range enrollment projections for those areas," Hite said.

The review will be done over four years, with the first year examining enrollment trends in Kensington, Overbrook and Center City South. Any recommendations from the first phase are expected go before the school board for approval by this time next year.
      
The district has set up a website to explain what it calls its Comprehensive School Planning Review.