Local: Education

D.C. to make up to 16 vacant schools available for charters

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Local,DC,Education,Matt Connolly

District Mayor Vincent Gray announced Monday that 16 former public school buildings would be made available for public charters and other community organizations to use.

The move comes amidst growing demand for charter school spots in the city. Roughly 22,000 students were on public charter waitlists this year, up from about 15,000 last year, the Public Charter School Board announced earlier this month.

Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith said that financial stability and academic achievement are the top criteria in determining which schools get buildings. Interested schools must outline their proposals by submitting an inquiry form.

School's out
Vacant facilities available for charter use
Benning Elementary School, 100 41st St. NE
Ferebee-Hope Elementary School, 3999 8th St. SE
Gibbs Elementary School, 500 19th St. NE
Hamilton Center, 1401 Brentwood Parkway, NE
Kenilworth Elementary School, 1300 44th St. NE
Langston Elementary School, 33 P St. NW
Mamie D. Lee School, 100 Gallatin St. NE
Marshall Elementary School, 3100 Fort Lincoln Drive, NE
M.C. Terrell-McGogney Elementary School, 3301 Wheeler Road, SE
Ron Brown Middle School, 4800 Meade St. NE
Shadd Elementary School, 5601 E. Capitol St. SE?
Shaed Education Campus, 301 Douglas St. NE
Sharpe Health School, 4300 13th St. NW
Wilkinson Elementary School, 2330 Pomeroy Road, SE
Winston Education Campus, 3100 Erie St. SE
Young Elementary School, 820 26th St. NE

"We're looking for charter schools that are serving kids well," Smith said. "We want schools that have some kind of record for performance."

Charters have to find their own facilities, which can leave them operating out of less-than-optimal locations like storefronts and churches. Charter elementary schools on average have 53 percent less square feet per student than traditional public schools, according to the DC Public Charter School Board. Charter middle schools average 72 percent less square feet per student, while charter high schools average 39 percent less.

"Whenever [charters] go into the commercial market, it's costly, and they frequently aren't able to afford enough space for their students," said Robert Cane, executive director of charter advocacy group Friends of Choice in Urban Schools. "They can have crowded classrooms, no playgrounds or playing fields, often no cafeteria or gym."

He added that schools must often move around multiple times before finding a permanent home, which can take its toll on students' academic achievement.

The schools will be doled out in phases, and interest will determine how many are given out at one time, Smith said. The first round is scheduled to start in July.

Cane called the move "a good thing," but said he was waiting to see how many schools would be in each phase. In the past, he said, schools have all been released at once, with those that don't garner charter attention sold off for commercial use.

"If the mayor were to offer all of these buildings for the charter schools in one lump, they couldn't use all of them," Cane said. "The next year, somebody could have used them, but of course, they're not there anymore."

Public charter schools currently operate in more than 30 D.C. Public Schools buildings. The District has never before released this many former school facilities, Smith said.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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