The School District of Philadelphia is changing the way it plans to sell more than two dozen shuttered school buildings.
District officials announced Wednesday they will now lean on the city to help sell 31 properties that were closed under the district's Facilities Master Plan. Twenty-four of those buildings were shut down forever in June.
Called the Philadelphia Schools Repurposing Initiative, the new plan will allow the district to expedite the sale of "highly marketable" properties to generate funding more quickly.
The district will work with Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger and other officials to identify possible reuses for the buildings.
The plan was announced as the district continues to try and close a budget deficit of $304 million. That deficit forced the layoff of more than 3,800 employees and ending of art programs and sports.
City officials have guaranteed $50 million in emergency funding to the district under two plans. One proposal, put forth by Philadelphia City Council, would generate cash through the sale of these buildings.
Under the district's old facilities sale plan, the Adaptive Sale and Reuse Policy, an evaluation team of up to 10 people -- including community members -- would have been put together for each school. That team would then review potential buyers and recommend the best.
The new plan gets rid of that process. Instead, city officials will assess each property and provide recommendations for reuse. A series of meetings will also be held by City Planning Commission officials to listen to public input before facilities are sold, according to the district.
Information about each facility, potential buyers and ways to provide feedback will be available on a website to be created for the process.
The closing of school buildings has been a hotly debated topic over the past year.
Residents and parents have voiced concerns the buildings, many of which are large parcels that need expensive repairs, will sit vacant for a long time and become a haven for dangerous and illicit activities. There's also been fears that the community will not get a proper say in how the buildings are developed.
Officials say the new plan, while "streamlining" the process, will also provide transparency.
“We will work diligently with all of our partners, including the residents of Philadelphia, to ensure that we identify appropriate and productive uses for these buildings that are in keeping with the character of the neighborhoods and communities of which they are such an important part,” Greenberger said in a statement.