Parents react to Philadelphia school changes

PHILADELPHIA - December 14, 2012

RELATED: See the list of schools to be closed

A lot of North Philadelphia parents were concerned and confused this morning. They want to know what the next steps are in the decision process, as well as reasoning for why their child's school was picked.

Marvin Matthews, whose children attend Whittier Elementary School, tells Action News, "They're asking dad, 'What's going on? Is we gonna be here next year? Where we going?' They're confused."

Parents at Whittier Elementary, a K through 6 school, are torn between their kids' love for the school, and what is best for the school district.

One parent tells us, "I'm not too happy with it but I understand it also."

Whittier is one of the 37 schools on the chopping block, deemed too old and underutilized. Consultants suggested the closures, saying it would save the financially strapped district $28 million a year. 11 are high schools, including Strawberry Mansion and Germantown, plus four middle and 22 elementary schools.

Superintendent Dr. William Hite's announcement comes after only three months on the job. He says shrinking budgets, low test scores, and kids opting to enroll in charter schools, is to blame.

Dr. Hite admits it will be a disruptive and painful transition, saying, "While I recommend all 37 as one group, I am not naive to understand that action could be taken on all or part."

Safety is another concern. Rival high schools will now house kids under one roof. Some fear an increase of violence.

Christina Lee, the grandparent of a current student, says, "We walk them to school to make sure that they're safe. Now they're going to be bussed, or they're going to go somewhere else where they don't know anything about the neighborhood or the people that live in the neighborhood. So yes, I'm really concerned."

Mayor Michael Nutter supports the plan, but this isn't a done deal just yet. There will still be public meetings, and the School Reform Commission needs to have a vote before the plan can move forward.

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