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Starting this fall, Philadelphia School District high schools will begin at 9 a.m.

Credit: Gary Lin

The School District of Philadelphia has announced a plan to improve aging Philadelphia School District buildings.

On March 22, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia Dr. William Hite announced the District’s Facilities Planning Process, a plan to renovate Philadelphia school buildings and meet students' educational needs with community input.

In a letter to the community, Hite said the plan seeks to mitigate the challenges facing existing school buildings in an effort to support students' academic creativity and "21st-century learning needs."

The FPP replaces the Comprehensive School Planning Review, a development delayed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the School District website.

It will begin with school-level assessments, where industry experts will gather data on existing school buildings to target current issues and anticipate future challenges, the School District website reported

Following these initial assessments, the district will hold community conversations in May. Community members can register to participate on the School District website.

In September, the School District will release a District Enrollment Forecast, which spans 10 years and is based on data collected from School District officials and community conversations with School District families. 

Following further rounds of community findings and conversations, the information will go towards recommendations for the Facilities Master Plan to be presented to the Board of Education in spring 2023, according to the District website.

According to The Philadelphia Tribune, Parsons Environment and Infrastructure Group Inc. will be responsible for managing the Facilities Master Plan. WXY Studio and Skai Blue Media will represent the School District in community engagement and strategic community support, respectively.

School District buildings have experienced several health and construction hazards in the last five years, including loose asbestos and lead in the drinking water. 

In November 2020, Penn announced a $100 million donation to the School District over the next 10 years. Some community members, however, said that the move was not sufficient, demanding that Penn pay Payments in Lieu of Taxes — or PILOTs — to further support the local school system.

The Philadelphia School District is eligible for $1.114 billion from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, The Philadelphia Tribune reported. The Facilities Master Plan will use $325 million of stimulus money over the next four years as part of the project’s $2 billion investment. 

“This plan … will prioritize investment spending that aligns learning environments with evolving community, facility and educational needs,” Hite said in the statement.