Patrick Kerkstra, writing for Next American City, wonders what will happen to the dozens of Philadelphia school buildings slated for closure at the end of this school year:
But what can get overlooked are the long-term community consequences of school closings. Schools, obviously enough, are not ordinary buildings, and they can be difficult to convert to non-educational uses. The sites are typically large, and repurposing a shuttered school is simply too big a project for many developers and non-profits. Combine that with the fact that closed schools are often located in depopulated low-income neighborhoods.
The school district is unlikely to sell the buildings for what it thinks they’re worth, he writes, but there’s a real danger that the big empty buildings could become rotting sources of blight in quick order. Drawing on research, Kerkstra recommends the district hire brokers to seek out new buyers to redevelop the properties at a relatively cheap price. “Ensure that buyers actually redevelop the site after purchasing it,” he writes. “Development authorities use such language as a matter of course, but this is new territory for school districts.”