Local: Education

Half of D.C. schools targeted for closure were winners in June

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Photo - Students at Shaw Middle School (Examiner file photo)
Students at Shaw Middle School (Examiner file photo)
Local,Education,Lisa Gartner

Four months before DC Public Schools named Thurgood Marshall Elementary a school it needed to close, it named Marshall a winner.

Marshall applied for and won a $300,000 "Proving What's Possible" grant, which urged schools to form creative plans to improve their test scores over the next five years. Marshall, a Ward 5 neighborhood school, would use the money to implement astronomy, robotics and agriculture programs. The school had just cleaned out its planetarium and was in the market for a projector.

"While we received many outstanding grant proposals, we chose the most compelling, and I am excited to see these plans in action this fall and track progress throughout the year," Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said in June.

But last week, Henderson released a list of 18 neighborhood schools she wanted to close by next year. Nine of the schools were "Proving What's Possible" grant winners, receiving $1.35 million from the school system to test new programs, extend their schooldays and partner with universities.

"We were kind of blindsided by this," said Leslie Jones, a Marshall parent. "Last year we reopened our planetarium, and the mayor's office was going to give us money to get a projector."

Jones said she plans to protest the shuttering of Marshall at the D.C. Council's second hearing on the proposed closings Monday. At the first hearing, on Thursday, several parents questioned why DCPS had invested these schools' improvement plans only to seemingly give up on them.

Malcolm X Elementary won $250,000 to extend its schoolday, in the same vein as many successful public charter schools. Spingarn High received $200,000 to purchase "Renaissance Learning programs" and 75 computers.

Henderson's spokeswoman, Melissa Salmanowitz, said the list of proposed closings was not finalized until early November.

"DCPS spent months combing over data and figures to determine which schools made the most sense to propose for consolidation. It's unfair and untrue to say anything we did was shortsighted," Salmanowitz said.

The school system chose the 20 total schools because they were underenrolled, many unable to attract students due to low performance. The "Proving What's Possible" grant also was geared toward schools that needed to improve their test scores.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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