District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson has requested public feedback on a proposal to close 20 schools in six wards across the city.
The list includes eight elementary schools, two education campuses, four middle schools, one high school, one STAY program, the CHOICE program and three special education campuses. Most of the consolidations would go into effect for the 2013-2014 school year.
"The challenge we face in DCPS is clear – our buildings are wildly under-enrolled, our resources are stretched too thin and we're not providing the complement of academic supports that our students and families deserve," said Henderson. "Consolidating schools is our best option to better utilize our facilities and work more efficiently for our schools, our teachers, our students and our city."
According to recommendations provided to District officials earlier this year by the Chicago-based Illinois Facility Fund, several of the city's low-performing schools should be merged with high-performing charter schools.
A priority for DCPS is ensuring as many students as possible are in modernized buildings. Since 2007, DCPS has modernized 45 of the current total of 117 school buildings. Taking into account buildings that were previously modernized, 57 schools – almost half of the school system inventory still await modernization. Even after an enormous, city-wide investment of over $1.3 billion since 2007, almost 20,000 students still attend schools that need modernization.
Overall, DCPS spends less in large and fully-enrolled schools than it does at small and under-enrolled schools. Because DCPS has many under-enrolled schools, DCPS invests in maintaining these schools when it makes more sense to invest more in programs to help low-performing students, increase opportunities for advanced learners, and develop specialized programs to better engage students.
45 percent, or nearly half of DCPS schools, have only one teacher per grade level, making shared planning time impossible and forcing teachers to work on lesson plans by themselves. With only one teacher per grade level, small changes in student populations at a specific grade can force larger class sizes. In addition, schools cannot provide flexible grouping to meet specific student needs (for example, small groups for struggling learners.)
"To achieve our goals of a great school for every single student, we have to use all of our resources well – every dollar, every building, and every minute of instructional time. As our schools are currently organized, we can't achieve our goals," said Henderson.
When making the proposed list, DCPS considered student enrollment and demographic trends in the community, building utilization rates, building condition and modernization status and the availability of receiving schools to offer students an improved education experience.
Consolidating these 20 schools will allow DCPS to offer a high-quality education to all students, use all resources more effectively, establish a flexible district that can account for future population growth and ensure the district's long-term financial stability.
The portfolio of schools in DCPS will shift dramatically after these consolidations. The average school enrollment will increase to 432 students, up from 376. Overall building utilization rate will be 84 percent, an increase from 72 percent. Only 26 elementary schools will have fewer than 350 students, instead of 41. 1,700 additional students will have the opportunity to attend school in a modernized building.
Among schools slated for consolidation are:
Francis-Stevens Education Campus in Ward 2 to merge with Marie Reed Elementary School in Ward 1
Spingarn High School in Ward 5 to merge with Eastern High School (Dunbar and Woodson high schools) for wards 6, 5,7
Ron Brown Middle School in Ward 7 to merge with Kelly Miller Middle School in Ward 7
Johnson Middle School in Ward 8 to merge with Hart and Kramer middle schools in Ward 8
Two public hearings where the public can provide input will be held at the John A. Wilson Building in downtown D.C. as follows:
4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15
2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 19
Four community meetings will also be held in the coming weeks.
Source: District of Columbia Public Schools Office of Communications