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UPDATE: 19 Arrested At Protests On School Closings

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By Pat Loeb and Todd Quinones

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on a controversial plan to close 29 public schools.

Opponents of the plan are lined up to speak before the vote in hopes of defeating it, and as of Thursday night, 19 protesters have already been arrested – including the president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Opponents have made it clear they won’t let schools go gently, and crowds of protestors have gathered outside the school district’s headquarters.

They’ve been effective at least in getting ten schools off the school closing list, but their goal is a one-year moratorium on any closing.

The odds of that?

School district spokesman Fernando Gallard says there’s no way to tell.

“It’s like saying, ‘Do you know how a judge is going to rule in a case?’ You have no idea.”

Gallard says there is a single resolution before the commission — closing all 29 schools — but the commission could make changes.

Quanisha Smith of the parents’ coalition PCAPS says they’re optimistic.

“We’re fighting to the end. We don’t believe this fight is over.”

Gallard says the closings would save the district $24-million a year.

A number of independent studies have questioned the savings because of transition and ongoing maintenance costs.

One analyst, Research for Action, has also studied the educational impact of school closings.

“When a school closes and a student is transferred to another school that can hurt their academic achievement, at least in the short run,” executive director Kate Shaw said.

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