With one week and a half to go in the 2012-13 school year, 23 public schools across Philadelphia are preparing to close their doors for good. It’s a grim reality hammered down by the state-appointed School Reform Commission, whose recently passed bare-bones budget spells the layoffs of 3,783 School District of Philadelphia employees: teachers, counselors, secretaries, janitors.
As a result, the Teacher Action Group has created Faces of the Layoffs, a platform for personifying that overwhelming statistic. The web site profiles a series of individuals incredibly diverse—ethnic background, job description, geographically across the city from Julia de Burgos Elementary to Central High, from the School of the Future to Northeast High. They’ve also created a platform that makes it easy for citizens to contact the elected officials who’ve brought it to this point: State Senators, State Representatives, and Governor Corbett.
As the closings go into effect next Thursday, a group of concerned artists are scrambling to document the final days of the 23 schools. Zoe Strauss created a Facebook group as a clearinghouse and resource where photographers can gather information and access to the schools in hopes of photographing the schools, their interiors, and their students before they’re closed and the students move elsewhere.
And as for the buildings themselves, AxisPhilly’s Schoolhouse Watch provides a forum for the community to weigh in what becomes of them. With a detailed list and information on each of the 23 schools (including their descriptions, market value, and elected officials), Schoolhouse Watch uses data and public input to anticipate the future of each school building.
Finally, Here’s My Chance sat down recently with Dr. William Hite, SDP’s Superintendent, for a chat about the School District’s future after this latest belt tightening. Our own Jessie Fox took photos for Here’s My Chance and edited the soundslide which follows. “Everybody has to say, ‘here are the sacrifices were all going to have to make in order to create our ability to educate children moving forward,'” Dr. Hite says. Click below to listen to the interview, set to a slideshow of photos Jessie has taken in the schools.