SRC votes to spare four schools
SRC votes to spare four schools
The SRC voted on school closures, ending the school-by-school voting at 8:33 p.m. Here's a list of what's staying open and what's closing:
In rather swift fashion, voting on individual school closings has commenced. So far, seven schools have been approved by the SRC for closure while two have been given reprieves: Peirce Elementary School at 2300 W. Cambria St. in the Allegheny West section of North Philadelphia and Taylor Elementary School at 3698 N. Randolph Street.
The seven to be closed are: L.P. Hill, Reynolds, Whittier, Pratt, Vaux, Ferguson and Fairhill.
One of the last speakers of the night, the Rev. Alyn Waller of Enon Tabernacle Church in Germantown, who happens to be one of the city's most powerful religious leaders, didn't mince words when testifying before the SRC minutes ago.
"Whatever decision is made tonight, you will deal with our celebration or you will deal with our anger," Waller, who leads the 14,000-member megachurch, said.
He added that tonight's vote is "uninformed and immoral."
The public comment period ended after two hours. The SRC will now spend awhile asking questions of district staff.
Veteran city school teacher Debra Perry testifies of what would possibly become an infamous footnote to the school closings plan should it approved tonight in describing a less-than-year-old playground at slated-to-be shuttered Taylor Elementary School in Hunting Park.
The park was paid in part by a $300,000 donation from Phillies star pitcher Cole Hamels and was only officially opened last June.
Meanwhile, among the crowd inside the packed meeting room is former Mayor John Street and students from Temple University, where he teaches as an adjunct professor.
And in the continued fallout from the arrest of national education union leader Randi Weingarten prior to the meeting, the most recent speaker, George Ricchezza, who heads the school district's blue collar employees' union, said: "I am ashamed to be a school district employee."
Several city and state lawmakers have testified in the last half hour, unanimously pleading for a moratorium on school closings until more time is given to study the effects on students and neighborhoods in different parts of the city.
"Moratorium, moratorium!" the audience exclaimed as some from City Council testified before the SRC.
On the arrests front, the American Federation of Teachers (the national education union) confirmed that their president, Randi Weingarten, was arrested prior to the meeting. She had been scheduled to testify before the SRC.
Retired school teacher Lisa Haver testified: "This is the saddest day ever."
Haver also added that national teachers' union President Randi Weingarten, who was scheduled to testify before the SRC, will not speak because she has been arrested by city police during the protest prior to the meeting.
City Councilwoman Cindy Bass is the first elected official to testify and asks the SRC to push off the school closings vote for a year to give more time to legislators and the public to provide input on the effects of closing certain schools.
Meanwhile, city police have confirmed that 19 protesters were arrested.
Speakers, of which there are 33 tonight, have begun addressing the School Reform Commission.
"Would you send your kids to a dangerous school to be positive role models?" asked a student at Robeson High School, which could be closed and its students moved to Sayre High School.
"What are you telling our children about keeping our promise?" asked a parent of a student at Germantown High School, which is also slated to be closed.
Coinciding with an earlier report of 13 arrests, another report has the arrest total at 18, including the national teachers' union president, Randi Weingarten, who gave an impassioned speech to the massive crowd prior to the start of the hearing this afternoon.
As many as 13 protesters have been arrested, according to an eyewitness, though police could not immediately confirm that number. More arrests may have taken place among the crowd of at least 700 inside the school district headquarters and outside 440 North Broad Street. A stretch of the road has been shut down by police because of the swelling crowd.
The meeting was scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.
Protests have heated up considerably since American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten spoke to the crowd of an estimated 700 people in the last half hour.
"This is a city that is under fire," Weingarten said. "Fix, don't close schools!"
The crowd is now threatening to keep School Reform Commission members from entering the meeting room to vote on the school closures.
Lots of energy is building in a crowd of hundreds gathered outside the school district's headquarters. Protesters have spilled onto North Broad Street and have caused police to close down a stretch of the street in the 400 block.
"Solidarity forever, the union makes us strong!" the crowd sang at one point while waiting for the 5:30 p.m. meeting to begin.
Things are quiet here at 440 N. Broad Street, the Philadelphia School DIstrict's headquarters. It's the calm before the storm, though folks are checking audio and video equipment and there's already a strong security presence.
I'll be live Tweeting any protests, rallies, pre-vote action and then the whole meeting - should be a late one. Stay tuned!
Brace yourselves for a lively Thursday - SRC school closing vote day. I'll be livetweeting, so follow along here or on Twitter.