By Cherri Gregg and Todd Quinones
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Protesters rallied outside of the Philadelphia School District’s headquarters on North Broad Street just hours after the district announced the closures.
Hundreds of parents, teachers, and students gathered to demand that the school district re-think the closures and listen to community concerns before taking a next step. And the concerns are plenty.
“A lot of parents were shocked because they didn’t know that the schools were being closed.”
Dawn Hawkins says her son is in middle school and was supposed to head off to Strawberry Mansion High School. She says moving him to Ben Franklin is not an option.
“My son will have to catch three buses to get to Ben Franklin and I’m concerned about that.”
Troy carter is a special needs student at Bok high school, a place his mother is happy to send her son who’s autistic.
“I do love my school. I love what I do,” he said.
“I was shocked. I was really shocked,” Troy’s mother, Tracey Carter, said.
For Troy, closing Bok would mean he would go to South Philadelphia High. It’s a move his mom believes isn’t’ fair.
“You’re taking them out of their neighborhood and into a totally different neighborhood that has its own issues,” she said.
Quanisha Smith is a community organizer with Action United. She says community groups are outraged that the school district took this step before talking to parents and they want the closures stopped.
“We are calling for a moratorium – to put a stop to the school closings until we can do a full impact analysis.”
But shutting down the schools is needed, Superintendent Dr.William Hite said.
He says tax dollars are being wasted on supporting schools that have hundreds of empty desks, due to declining student enrollment.
Hite says the closures could save taxpayers about $28 million a year.
“We are undertaking this process now because we have few options,” Hite said.
Mayor Michael nutter backed the move.
“You cannot kick the can down the road any farther. These are decisions that should have been made, and needed to have been made many, many years ago,” Nutter said.
The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools say they will release a report offering an alternative to the closure in the coming weeks.