By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Philadelphia School District today unveils plans to permanently close about 40 schools next fall.

At a 2 pm news conference, Superintendent William Hite identifies the school buildings on the list to close next fall. With enrollment declining and revenues flat, Hite says closing underutilized buildings should have happened long ago.

“Now, we have no choice. If we don’t take some of these actions now, we actually have no money to spend,” Hite said. “I think many superintendents, understanding the difficulty associated with school closings, chose to kick the can and just continue to kick it down and let someone else deal with this.”

The cash-strapped district has said it could save $33 million by closing underutilized buildings. The district has said it has 70,000 empty seats across the system.

City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez says the closures are sure to be unpopular, but they are necessary.

“We know that these slots are empty throughout the city, so now we have to go through what will be painful but an important process of rightsizing the school district.”

Public hearings would precede any final school closure decisions. The School Reform Commission is expected to vote on the closures in March.

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