Proposed closings hit Black students most

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Proposed school closings and relocations will disproportionately affect Black students in the District, based on District data analyzed by the Notebook and displayed below.

About 15,000 students attend the 43 District schools being closed or relocated. Of those, 79 percent are African American. Only 55 percent of the District’s students overall are African American.

Nearly three-fourths of these 43 schools being closed or relocated have student populations that are 80 percent or more African American. More than a dozen of the proposed school closings and relocations are in predominantly Black North Philadelphia, where many of the school buildings are both aging and underutilized.

White students are underrepresented among students affected by closings. Only 4 percent of affected students are White, whereas White students represent 14 percent of the District population. White students in the District are concentrated in Northeast Philadelphia, where utilization rates at most schools are high.

Twelve percent of students in the schools being closed are Latino, 2 percent are Asian, and 3 percent are of other ethnicities.

Responding to these findings, District spokesperson Fernando Gallard said, “The vast majority of schools identified by the facilities master plan recommendations have low utilization — that’s one of the reasons schools are identified. The majority of students in schools with low utilization are African American; therefore it follows that African Americans are a majority of the students affected."

Data about school capacity and utilization show that 20 of 43 schools being closed or relocated are more than half-empty (less than 50 percent utilization). Another seven are less than 60 percent utilized. Eight of the 43 schools are more than three-fourths full.

In October, the activist group Action United filed a federal civil rights complaint alleging that last year’s school closings were racially discriminatory.

Demographics of schools recommended for closure or relocation from psnotebook Statistical note: The Notebook excluded Carnell annex from this tally because separate data for students in the annex were not available.

Data compiled by Kofi Biney