The obstacles, and the plan to scale them

WHEN DISTRICT, city and charter officials signed the Great Schools Compact last year, they signaled the direction that public education was going in - closing seats in low-performing schools, and expanding high-performing ones.

Labels - whether a school is run by the district or by a charter - matter much less now.

Officials said that they want to continue expanding charters, and expect that by 2017, 40 percent of the city's roughly 200,000 students will be enrolled in a charter school. Now, it's about 25 percent.

Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen said the district aims to close 40 buildings in June 2013 (the list is expected this summer), and then six each of the next four years. It costs about $850,000 to run every building, and the district has too many underutilized, aging schools.

"If we don't close these schools, and we just keep them up . . . we're blowing about $33 million," Knudsen said.

Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership, a nonprofit started to raise funds to expand seats in high-achieving schools, is encouraged.

The number of closed schools is "a scary number, but it's a promising number," Gleason said. "It shows a level of seriousness that we haven't seen in prior years."

- Kristen A. Graham,

Inquirer staff writer