WASHINGTON – Twenty schools spread across six wards are slated to close their doors, most beginning next school year, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced Tuesday.
The schools that could be shuttered include eight elementary schools, four middle schools and one high school. Public meetings are planned to obtain feedback from parents, ward-based education councils and community members.
Mayor Vincent Gray will ultimately decide whether to approve the consolidation plan. School officials hope to release a final list of schools designated for closure early next year, said DCPS spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz.
The plan would increase building utilization rates from 72 percent today to 84 percent. And it would shrink the number of elementary schools serving fewer than 350 students from 41 schools to 26 schools, according to the school system.
“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,” Henderson said in a written statement. “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.”
School officials argue DCPS spends more to operate under-enrolled schools in part because they are among the system’s 57 buildings that still need renovations and because of staffing levels.
By the Numbers
Total buildings 117
Schools needing renovations 57
$1.3 billion spent to modernize 47 schools
Average per school enrollment 376
45 percent of schools have 1 teacher per grade
10-year District loss of school children 15,796
DCPS enrollment 45,835
Almost half of the schools have only one teacher per grade level, which prevents shared planning time and forces teachers to develop lesson plans alone. Small changes in student populations can create larger class sizes, the school system argues.
“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,” according to a school system statement.
Earlier this year, school officials also decided to stop providing librarians at schools with fewer than 300 students, affecting nearly 60 campuses.
Funding that supports small schools could have helped cover the cost of those librarians, according to the formal proposal.
In crafting the list, school officials said they considered enrollment, population trends, building use rates, building condition, whether they school requires renovations and whether other schools could better serve affected students.
No schools in Wards 1 or 3 will close. However Wards 5 and 7 each have five schools slated to close.
The Post also reports that community leaders already oppose the closures, arguing that the closures could push students out of the school system and reduce enrollment, leading to more closures in the future.
Initial enrollment data for the current school year show that 45,835 students are attending D.C. public schools, a 1 percent increase from last year. However charter school enrollment in the District increased 11 percent to more than 35,000 students.
The District’s population of school-aged children has been dropping since 2000 but is forecast to rise sharply between 2015 and 2022, according to the DCPS plan.
The district has scheduled several public meetings to hear from parents and stakeholders during the next month:
City Council Hearing, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave N.W., from 4 to 8 p.m., Nov. 15
City Council Hearing, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave N.W., from 2 to 6 p.m., Nov. 19
Ward 8 Community Dialogue, Savoy Elementary School, 2400 Shannon Place S.E., from 6 to 8 p.m., Nov. 27
Ward 7 Community Dialogue, Sousa Middle School, 3650 Ely Place S.E., from to 6 to 8 p.m., Nov. 28
Wards 5 Community Dialogue, Langley EC, 101 T Street N.E., from 6 to 8 p.m., Nov. 29
Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 Community Dialogue, Brightwood EC, 1300 Nicholson Street N.W., from 6 to 8 p.m., Dec. 5