The Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted Thursday night to sell 11 shuttered school buildings - including Germantown High - in a group of transactions that would net just $2 million.
The sales were met with alarm in some corners. Germantown residents in particular said they had no idea the property, which closed to students in 2013, was about to change hands.
"You took us all incredibly by surprise," retired teacher Karel Kilimnik told the SRC.
Germantown neighbors have been meeting for a year to discuss possible uses for the high school site.
Germantown High, adjacent Fulton Elementary, Carroll High School, and Smith and Vare Elementaries will go to the Concordia Group for $6.8 million; Bok High School is being sold to Scannapieco Development for $2.1 million; Leidy to UCH/Belmont Charter for $2.3 million; and Communications Tech, Pepper Middle School, and Reynolds and Walton Elementaries will go to the Philadelphia Housing Authority for $3 million.
Closing and related costs are significant and bring down considerably the net gain for the Philadelphia School District, said Fran Burns, the district's chief of operations.
In many cases, the district sold bonds to pay for repairs and upgrades to the school buildings now being sold. That borrowing must be repaid before any sale is final, hence the high costs and low net proceeds for the school system.
Some buyers specified uses for the properties they are purchasing - PHA, for instance, plans housing units in the Comm Tech and Pepper sites, senior housing at the Walton site, and an educational facility at the Reynolds site.
Others, including Concordia for the Germantown site, said they would take time and speak to the community before determining the best use for the property.
SRC Chairman Bill Green said he received requests from former colleagues on City Council to delay some of the sales - some members were upset with the buyers chosen - but was unable to honor them.
"We need to move forward to start the process," Green said. He emphasized that Council required the commission to use the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. to manage the sales, and noted that the commission was accepting the agency's recommendations.
The buyers must now meet with the communities surrounding the schools they intend to purchase during a "due diligence" period, Burns said. Some properties could close quickly; others, including ones that require zoning variances, will take longer.
The SRC approved the sales, and they can go to settlement without any further action, but "if through due diligence different issues arise, we might be in a different place," Burns said.
The cash-strapped district is counting on netting $18 million in building sales in the fiscal year that ends June 30. The $2 million from these sales comes on top of $11.7 million netted from the sale of William Penn High School to Temple University.
Separately, the commission Thursday night amended the agreement of sale for the old West Philadelphia High. That property was supposed to sell for $6 million but its price was reduced to $5.1 million because of issues in the building. That sale will net the district about $4.9 million, bringing the total to more than $18 million.