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Philly schools plan more closures, charters, new schools

Sweeping changes are afoot for the Philadelphia School District, with closures, conversions to charters and even new schools proposed Thursday by the superintendent.

In all, 5,000 students at 15 schools would be affected by the plan, which requires School Reform Commission approval.

Beeber Middle School in West Philadelphia — which staved off closure once before, in 2013 — would be phased out, shuttering in 2018. Grades will be added at Beeber's feeder schools.

Leeds Middle School in northwest Philadelphia would be phased out, closing at the end of this school year. Students will instead attend Hill-Freedman World Academy, which would move to the Leeds building.

A middle school based on the successful Science Leadership Academy model would open in 2016 in partnership with Drexel University, serving primarily as the catchment school for Powel Elementary in West Philadelphia. It would have no admissions requirement and open in 2016.

A high school based on the acclaimed Big Picture model, focusing on project-based learning and internships, would open in in a to-be-determined location in the city.

Three chronically struggling elementary schools would be converted into charters, run by to-be-determined organizations. They are: Jay Cooke in Logan, Samuel Huey in West Philadelphia and John Wister in Germantown.

Up to three not-yet-determined schools will be considered for turnaround by the district. They will be announced in early 2016.

As a result of the planned closure of Beeber, its three feeder schools — Overbrook Elementary, Gompers Elementary and Cassidy Elementary — would add grades. And as a result of the planned closure of Leeds and merger into Hill-Freedman, Leeds' feeder schools — Pennypacker and F.S. Edmonds — would grow to include middle school students.

Superintendent William R. Hite labeled the planned changes "exciting" and said they would advance the district's mission of equity.

"These recommendations address parental demand for better academic programs in safe, familiar environments while presenting rigorous and engaging opportunities for students," Hite said in a statement.
This is a developing story.

Please check back for more details — Hite is scheduled to answer reporters' questions at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.