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Local: Education

Report: DCPS to announce school closings by December

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Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner

Update 1:15 p.m. A D.C. Public Schools spokeswoman declined to confirm that school closings would be announced by the end of 2012, as the D.C. Council's budget office told the National Conference of State Legislatures. "I didn't tell them that, and I don't know where the D.C. Council budget office gets their information," Melissa Salmanowitz said. She was not able to say if it would take longer than this winter for the closings to be announced. "We haven't issued a specific timeline yet," she said. Officials in the budget office were at a conference in Chicago and unavailable.

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D.C. Public Schools is slated to announce which schools it plans to close before the end of the year, according to information the city provided to state-level research organization.

The D.C. Council's budget office told the National Conference of State Legislatures that because more families were choosing charter schools over DCPS, and that the traditional school system needed more revenue, DCPS was looking to close campuses this winter.

"School closings will be a very public and contentious issue," reads the non-partisan national group's annual budget report. "The chancellor has indicated that the list of closures will be issued in winter of 2012."

A spokeswoman for Chancellor Kaya Henderson referred questions to the Office of the State Superintendent for Education, which deferred to Deputy Mayor of Education De'Shawn Wright.

"This is not something at this point that we're prepared to comment on," said Jennifer Leonard, the chief of staff for the deputy mayor.

Both Henderson and Mayor Vincent Gray have not been shy in recent months about their desire to close schools, many of which are underenrolled.

Enrollment in the traditional school system has been stabilizing after four decades of steep decline, but the 45,191-student body is still well below the 65,748 enrollment of 10 years ago. At least 40 of more than 200 schools have 300 or fewer students.

"Just do the math on it -- it's not sustainable," Gray said. "We're going to have to consolidate."

Wright's office released a report in January recommending that three dozen failing public schools be closed or turned around, likely as charter schools.

The last round of school closings, undertaken by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee and former Mayor Adrian Fenty, was received poorly by Wards 5, 7 and 8, which were hit the heaviest. Rhee's decision to consolidate schools in Ward 5, mostly by creating K-8 campuses at elementary schools, was partially reversed by current Chancellor Kaya Henderson in March.

Staff writer Steve Contorno contributed to this report.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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