Local: Education

DCPS proposes closing 20 schools

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View DCPS school closings in a larger map Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner

DC Public Schools is recommending the closure of 20 campuses because the schools are underenrolled and draining resources from the city's efforts to improve education, Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said Tuesday.

The proposed closings, which make up 17 percent of campuses and span elementary, middle and even Spingarn High School, would trigger new school boundaries and feeder patterns for the 45,000-student school system, which has lost about 16,000 students since 2000 to competition from public charter schools and mistrust of the city's chronically troubled -- but reforming -- schools. Eighteen of the schools would close by next fall.

Schools proposed to close
Ward School to close Students would go to
2 Francis-Stevens Education Campus Marie Reed Elementary and Hardy Middle
2 Garrison Elementary Seaton Elementary
4 MacFarland Middle Roosevelt High
4 Sharpe Health School* River Terrace Elementary (already closed and empty)
5 Mamie D. Lee School* River Terrace Elementary (already closed and empty)
5 CHOICE at Hamilton Cardozo High
5 Marshall Elementary Langdon Education Campus
5 Spingarn High Eastern, Dunbar and Woodson high schools
5 Spingarn STAY (adult program) Ballou STAY and Roosevelt STAY
6 Prospect Learning Center TBD
6 Shaw Middle Cardozo High
7 Davis Elementary C.W. Harris Elementary
7 Kenilworth Elementary Houston Elementary
7 Ron Brown Middle Kelly Miller Middle
7 Smothers Elementary Aiton and Plummer elementaries
7 Winston Education Campus Stanton Elementary and Kramer Middle
8 Ferebee-Hope Elementary Hendley Elementary
8 Johnson Middle Hart and Kramer middles
8 Malcolm X Elementary Turner Elementary
8 MC Terrell/McGogney Elementary King Elementary
*These schools would be consolidated a year later than the rest, in 2014-15

Unlike with the last round of school closings -- 23 in 2008 -- DCPS is planning to hold on to most of its buildings and may reopen them as the city's school-age population is expected to increase in 2015.

"This is an opportunity to stabilize a system of traditional neighborhood schools," Henderson said.

But long-term stability was little salve for some parents, who were frustrated that their children would need to change schools, some not for the first time. With Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson slated to close, Joy Hicks said this would be the third time a school attended by her seventh-grade daughter would be shut.

"I don't want to keep taking her out of schools and sending her to somewhere else. At some point, as a parent, we need to provide a level of stability for these kids," said Hicks, who plans to look at charter schools for her daughter.

Most of the schools targeted for closure are underperforming, some with math and reading proficiency rates in the teens. Henderson said her efforts to revitalize some schools have reached their limit and she must confront "realities."

"Just spending money blindly hoping parents will choose our schools isn't the best decision," she said.

Schools receive their funding from the District each June based on how many students they expect to enroll, meaning smaller schools have tighter budgets and often can't run after-school programs. Having only one teacher per grade level prevents educators from grouping students by abilities and needs, Henderson said.

At elementary schools, "Once we reach 350 students, our budget allows us to buy everything we want," including librarians and art teachers, positions hit heavily by this year's budget cuts.

But DCPS is expecting the city's school-age population to grow up to 55 percent between 2015 and 2022, per Census Bureau predictions. The school system plans to hold on to its leases for at least 12 of the schools, which it may reopen within the decade.

Some schools would be reinvented. Francis-Stevens Education Campus in Northwest would provide more space for School Without Walls Senior High School, one of the District's top-performing public schools. Spingarn would become a career and technical education school.

Keeping the leases also allows DCPS to keep a charter school from moving into vacated buildings within blocks of remaining DCPS schools, as was the case when Ward 8's MC Terrell and McGogney elementaries were consolidated in 2008. The charter attracted Terrell/McGogney's would-be students, and now the school is on the chopping block.

The D.C. Council has scheduled two hearings on the proposed closings, including one Thursday evening, and is holding meetings throughout the city with parents. Henderson said she expects to finalize the list by mid-January.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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