This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Last December, Superintendent William Hite announced plans to close or relocate 44 Philadelphia schools at the end of the school year. At most of the schools, parents, teachers, students, and other community members were outraged by the plan. Rallies to save the schools ensued, and the District dropped a dozen schools from the list; four others were spared by the School Reform Commission. But a majority of the efforts to save schools from being shuttered were unsuccessful. Ultimately, 24 schools were closed, with 5 more relocating or merging.
Neighborhoods, many anchored by the schools that were closed in June, were altered forever, leaving many families uncertain about what the future of public education in the city would look like.
To capture how the District’s school closings looked and felt, Philadelphia photographer Zoe Strauss put out a call to her colleagues – amateur and professional – to document the last days of these schools, many of which had become important institutions to students and families, staff, and alumni. The photographers gained access to most of the schools, capturing images of empty classrooms and hallways, final graduating classes, hugs from principals and teachers, well-worn exteriors, and other memorable moments.
Above are just a few of the images. Hundreds of additional photographs are displayed on the Philadelphia School Closings Photo Collective website. The Notebook has also produced a video about the closings.