Zombies are a hot topic in pop culture, and students from the Philadelphia Public School District concluded that they could draw attention to their effort to keep 37 schools in their city from closing their doors by dressing up as a zombie mob. They organized a flash mob set to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and carried signs calling on administrators to reconsider the closures.
Students aren’t the only ones protesting the proposal to close the schools, a move which will save the cash-strapped district about $28 million. Since the plan was first announced, lawmakers, parents, and teachers have all stepped forward calling it a mistake and warning that it would have a detrimental effect on Philadelphia’s kids.
The plan was announced by district Superintendent William Hiite, who said that the district could no longer afford to keep the 21 elementary, 5 middle and 11 high school operating. There are over 50,000 seats in schools around the city going empty for lack of students, and by shifting students around and closing schools, the district could achieve substantial financial savings.
Deirdre Darragh from the School District of Philadelphia said that school closures could save the city the cost of maintenance, heating and general upkeep.
The Philadelphia School District is extremely underfunded. Superintendent Hiite has said that if action is not taken soon, the district will run out of money to operate its existing public schools. In the long run, school district officials believe the relocation will also improve the quality of academics in Philadelphia. Most students will move to better performing schools under the current closure plan. Darragh sums up PPS’s aims in closing schools: “Officially we have two goals. One is to make the district financially stable. As part of that we’re closing buildings that are underused. The other is to improve academic performance for all students.”
Critics aren’t convinced. The zombies and others believe that the expenses that come from moving students around to other schools will far outstrip the $28 million in savings the district expects to realize.
There are also potential safety concerns. Merging two schools could create friction as students from different parts of the city are forced to co-exist.
Surprisingly, a number of parents have expressed concerns that closures could see enrollment rates at city’s charters to go up, which they fear will further strip the district of funding.
Those who disagree with the plan to close schools have not stood idly by. The Philadelphia Student Union has organized many protests, in addition to its zombie flash mob. The Philly Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) has several planned rallies and protests. The goal of these groups is a one-year moratorium on school closures until more research into the consequences of closing schools can be done.