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'Inaccurate' List of Closings Garner Concern Over DCPS Plans

11/2/2012, 5:12 p.m.

A spokesperson for the District of Columbia Public Schools system said she has no answers regarding how a list of school closings recently found its way onto the Internet -- except to say that the list -- which includes 38 schools -- is inaccurate.

"We have no idea where this list came from, but it's not from DCPS," Melissa Salmonowitz said in an email on Friday to The Washington Informer. However, "we look forward to announcing our proposed consolidations soon."

While DCPS is in the process of merging under-enrolled school buildings, parents and community groups and leaders--who were reminded of the 23 school closings ordered shortly after former chancellor Michelle Rhee took over in 2008 -- are lashing out.

Dorothy Douglas, who represents Ward 7 on the D.C. School Board, said she wasn't familiar with the fake list, but has been well aware of ongoing talks to close schools - most of which are located in the city's poorest wards.

"I know that plans call for some of the schools like those in wards 7 and 8 be closed due to low enrollment," Douglas said. "But I expressed to Mayor [Vincent] Gray and [Ward 7 Council member] Yvette Alexander that a decision to close schools without getting parents involved is not the solution. The parents are supposed to be the first ones to know what's going on, and that's not been the case, [so] they're upset."

A list of schools recommended for shuttering was provided to the Districts' deputy mayor for education earlier this year by the Chicago-based Illinois Facility Fund, and suggests that some of D.C.'s lower-performing schools be merged with high-performing charter facilities.

"That's not going to work," said parent Annette Douglas, 43,of Southeast who opposes combining DCPS with charter schools.

There are many reasons why she said. "For one, you can't mix students from Southwest with students from Southeast without expecting issues like violence to occur, it's going to be too problematic."

But contrary to Dorothy Douglas's sentiments, Ward 8 School Board candidate Phil Pannell said it makes good sense to close schools that are under-enrolled and to merge others.

He said that in many instances, under-enrolled buildings have already negatively impacted the ability to ensure key programs and services at other schools.

"For example, the new Ballou Senior High School [in Ward 8] lacks an ROTC program because the school can't afford it," Pannell said.

The D.C. Council has scheduled two hearings on recommended closings to be led by At-Large Council member Phil Mendelson. The forums will take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15 and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 19 in Room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building in downtown D.C.

Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie said in a statement, that in anticipation of the hearings, he'd been in touch with Chancellor Kaya Henderson's office to schedule a discussion on the matter. He hopes to meet with her next week.

"At this juncture DCPS has not made the closure list available to the Council or to the public," McDuffie said. "In response to the list being circulated on [the Internet], my office has contacted DCPS and confirmed that this list is inaccurate. Once DCPS officially releases school closure information, my office will make it available and work with the community to respond accordingly."

The Washington Informer will publish a more in-depth article surrounding recommended school closings in the Nov. 8 print edition.