The Philadelphia School District and city have settled a lawsuit challenging a law that would have given the city more environmental oversight over school buildings — and the ultimate authority to decide whether they can open.
The school system has agreed to drop its lawsuit, and the city prevailed on the creation of an advisory panel to examine district environmental issues. But the district retains final say-so on whether schools can open, and will get an additional $2.5 million in city money to address asbestos, lead and other facilities issues.
City and district leaders praised the settlement, disclosed to some district staff Wednesday afternoon, hailing it as a way to move forward with one voice. The lawsuit, filed in January in federal court, was an unprecedented move by the school board against the authority that created it and chooses its members.
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“The resolution of this lawsuit reflects the city and school district’s shared priority of maintaining safe and healthy schools for students and staff while minimizing learning disruptions due to building closures,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “The city is grateful to our partners in public health and education for their collaboration in reaching this agreement. This is a significant step forward in enhancing efficiency and transparency in school facility inspections.”
School board president Reginald Streater said the settlement “provides more clarity around how schools will remain open and how the city’s ordinance will be implemented.”
Streater had called the lawsuit a “family dispute,” but said in an interview Wednesday that its resolution was the result of five months of good-faith negotiations on both sides.
“I’m happy that we were able to come together for our students and move past this dispute for our students,” Streater said. “This is the next natural step of a sustainable and collaborative relationship with the city and all other interested stakeholders.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.