Gray wants D.C. schools to shed ‘agrarian concept’

WASHINGTON – Some D.C. school days could extend to as late as 5 p.m. next school year if the mayor gets his wish.

Working with Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, Mayor Vince Gray hopes to implement pilot programs in D.C. Public Schools that would keep students in classes until 4:30 p.m. or 5 p.m., he said on WTOP’s “Ask the Mayor” program Friday.

“We need to get away from an agrarian concept” of children who need to be home in the evenings and during the summer to help with chores, the mayor said.

Gray also pointed to the burden of the current ratio of more than 200 school buildings for roughly 76,000 students.

“I don’t know how many we will close,” he says, but the city will shutter some facilities in the near future.

Gray also noted the alarming rise in family homelessness in the city. In the last year, the rate of homeless families has climbed 40 to 50 percent.

“Much of this is a product of the economy,” the mayor says.

In response, D.C. has developed 1,100 new affordable housing units and another 1,100 is upcoming, Gray says. The city has also bolstered the rent subsidy fund, and the housing trust fund that provides grants and loans to those who want to build affordable housing.

The mayor also discussed a suspect he believes is related to the recent Petworth assaults. Learn more by following this link.

See what he had to say on the racist tweets against the Capitals’ Joel Ward by following this link.

Check out these other topics Gray discussed, and the full blog below:

10:58 a.m., while speaking about the infant mortality rate:

We’re down to 8 out of 1,000. The national average is 6.1. “It’s phenomenal news.”

10:55 a.m., while speaking about hiding speed cameras in D.C. and its high fines:

The tactic is legal. I’ve been public in saying I’d be happy to give people an orientation.

The goal here is to slow people down.

It’s amazing to see how people hit the brake lights when they come up to a speed camera area.

This is not a revenue generator. When it comes to the $150 fine, “if you don’t break the law, it doesn’t matter what the fine is because you don’t have to pay it.”

10:54 a.m., while speaking about Jim Graham’s report that others helped Harry Thomas Jr.:

It’s an ongoing investigation. If Mr. Graham has more information, he should put it on the table.

You don’t want to have investigations tripping over one another and muddying the process.

10:51 a.m., while speaking about the sentencing of Harry Thomas Jr., charged with stealing $3 million in tax money intended for inner-city youth:

I knew him and his father, also a former councilmember, and his mother, a former principal. “The whole thing continues to be an enigma for me.”

I think his sentencing should be left to the courts.

“He’s spent a lot of his time coaching kids.”

The nature of the crime and his history has to be taken into consideration.

The federal investigation against me has nothing to do with my actions.

10:41a.m., while speaking about helping at-risk children who don’t have a place to eat and sleep, and other homeless people:

The issue probably relates to the number of families who are homeless. That number as increased.

We’ve brought on 1,100 new units of housing. We have another 1,100 upcoming. We’ve increased the rent subsidy fund, and the housing trust fund to provide grants and loans to those who want to build affordable housing.

We have probably 40-50 percent more families in shelters than we did at the same time last year. “Much of this is a product of the economy”

We still have about 20 percent unemployment in Ward 8. We want to make sure we have strong STEM programs in our high schools, and extend the work we’re doing with the Department of Employment Services to improve and reform that agency.

The Coast Guard will be moving to St. Elizabeth’s in May 2013. There will be roughly 4,400 jobs produced there.

10:34 a.m., while speaking about 5-year plan for D.C. schools, including extending the school day and year:

I would like to do some pilots to extend the day, maybe to 4:30p or 5p

We need to get away from an agrarian concept of children who need to be home in the evenings and during the summer to help with chores.

I don’t know how many we will close, but we have far too many buildings.

We have 76,000 kids for just over 200 schools.

10:31 a.m., while speaking about RGIII and D.C. sports:

Periodically we’ve had a great team doing something.

Across the board, our professional teams are doing well, such as the Caps great series, the Wizards 5-game winning streak, and the Nationals.

A lot of people don’t know Mike Rizzo, the Nats general manager. He’s helped to grow their farm system. I got a message from him saying we had the worst farm system, and now we have the best.

RGIII may be the fastest to ever play the position. And he seems to be a very smart young man.

“His acumen for the game, he’s so well grounded, I’m so impressed with him. I’m just so delighted.”

We aren’t any closer to having the Redskins actually play in D.C.

10:27 a.m., while speaking about the ParkMobile app:

We have an incompatibility with the technology. We want to advance the state of the art by removing the requirement that you walk around with all these quarter

10:25 a.m., while speaking about technology to improve commuting:

“First off, we’re trying to get people out of automobiles.”

We’re going to open the first streetcar line in modern era next year.

10:21 a.m., while speaking about D.C. unemployment insurance:

I don’t think we should look at unemployment insurance and where we want to land. We recognize it’s not a lot of money, but our goal is to get people back working again.

10:17 a.m., while speaking about Metro fare hikes:

It’s clear we need more maintenance of the system. The federal government has reduced its commitment from $150 million to $135 million, “which is odd, since so many federal workers ride the system.”

“You can’t keep pouring money in if you haven’t assured people the system has done its job.”

10:14 a.m., while speaking about Marion Barry’s comments about Asian-American shop owners, and about Filipino nurses:

At this point, you have to ask what the positive effect would be of requesting he apologize.

Marion Barry has done a lot for the city. A lot of people hold him in high regard. He helped many get jobs. I think he’s committed to developing the city.

“I hope he rethinks his comments.”

“Those statements have no place, and they shouldn’t be made.”

10:11 a.m., while speaking about racist tweets against Capitals’ Joel Ward:

(Gray wasn’t allowed to pledge a fraternity when he was in college)

“It’s very disappointing….It shows we still have in some parts of our society some very high levels of racism”

I hope it inspires our D.C. youth, particularly African Americans to get involved in hockey, like the Fort Dupont rink in Southeast.

“This is a celebratory moment for African Americans. This is a celebratory moment for the city.”

10:03 a.m., while speaking about crime in the Petworth neighorhood, particularly the tourist murdered on Tuesday:

“We’ve had some real progress.”

Police chief deployed undercover officers Thursday night. One of them heard a woman screaming, immediately went there and found her writhing in pain. Saw a figure in an alley, pursued him, he discarded a backpack that contained a claw hammer with blood on it, with the same MO as the other incidents.

“We think we have a suspect.”

I don’t want to conclude there is a pattern. This seems to be the case of someone who is mentally ill.

WTOP’s Paul D. Shinkman contributed to this report. Follow Paul and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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