Officials say that most jobs in closed schools will follow students to their new buildings, but they also say that fewer buildings will mean fewer teachers, administrators, aides, nurses and safety officers - and more than $22 million in annual labor savings.
"When you operate a small school . . . you still need that administrative staff," said Matthew Stanski, the district's chief financial officer. "That becomes more efficient the larger the school becomes."
The estimated annual labor savings include:
* $3.7 million from teachers: a loss of about one teacher overall per closed school.
* $8.7 million from "operations," including principals, assistant principals, secretaries, aides and other administrators.
* $9.2 million from "maintenance," including building engineers, mechanics and cleaning staff.
* $600,000 and $277,000 from school nurses and security guards, respectively.
The rest of the projected annual $28 million in savings will come from things like reduced utility costs and the end of a pricey lease, officials say.
Officials say their savings estimates already factor in most transition costs, including the need to provide extra transportation for students whose schools are closing.
But the officials acknowledge that not every transition cost has been fully determined, including the price of emptying decommissioned buildings and moving equipment to new schools. Savings also will be reduced by the "carrying costs" associated with maintaining and securing any unsold closed buildings - costs that the district estimates could run as high as $3 million annually.
Mary Filardo, head of the 21st Century School Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based group that works to improve public-school facilities, says that it is easy for districts to underestimate closures' costs and their overall impact. She cited a California study that found that property values increased by $1.50 for every dollar spent on capital improvements in schools.
"Part of what you're not looking at is that disinvesting in education in neighborhoods will depress the property values in those neighborhoods," she said.
Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn, however, insists that the benefits of consolidated schools will offset any costs borne by communities.
"Our goal is to improve the quality of schools, which will have a positive effect on property values," he said. "One way that we do that is stopping wasting money on seats that are empty."
Bill Hangley Jr. writes for the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, where this story first appeared. For more, go to thenotebook.org.