Phila. School officials, parents meet for school forum

PHILADELPHIA - September 29, 2012

Dozens of parents and other city residents voiced their concerns and opinions at a meeting with Philadelphia School District officials at West Philadelphia High Saturday.

Those officials are trying to determine which schools will be closed next year.

Declining enrollment has left the district with 70,000 empty seats.

"There are 80 new charter schools," said Pedro Ramos. "We have more than 50,000 fewer students in the school district schools, but we have the same number of buildings, the same number of seats, and we are spending a lot of money on empty space."

The parents used electronic polling devices to rank their priorities on a number of tough questions.

Among them, whether having school choice or having a school close to home was more important, and whether that priority changes as students get older.

They were also asked to rank the importance of up-to-date buildings versus specific programs.

The parents also had small-group discussions where they could express opinions in more detail.

A preliminary school-closure plan could be announced in mid-October.

The participants said they were glad to be able to voice their concerns before that plan is made.

"I think it's really important for parents and stakeholders to come out to these meetings if they can, to give their input," said Elaine Jenson.

"This is the first meeting I've ever been to. I've heard about them, but they are usually so far away that I can't get to them or I am working. But this has really helped me a lot; it was very informative," said Christine Nero.

Several more of these community meetings are scheduled between now and mid-October.


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