Facing a growing challenge from the burgeoning charter school movement, the D.C. Public School system plans to close 20 schools, most of them at the beginning of next academic year.
The plan is to close schools in six of the city's eight wards. Interestingly, in D.C.'s most affluent area, Ward 3, city public schools are generally bursting with students.
In poorer areas of the city, public school buildings are usually under-utilized, because parents are increasingly placing their children in free charter schools.
"In some wards, more than half of all public school students are attending charter schools," Chancellor Kaya Henderson told reporters at a morning briefing. "And many of our charter schools have plans to continue to grow by grade level and by adding additional campuses."
Chancellor Henderson argues: it costs more money (per student) to keep under-enrolled schools open than she is comfortable with. For example, at M.C. Terrell-McGogney Elementary School, there are currently only 208 students enrolled -- about half the building is empty. Henderson says she would rather close this building, and invest in educational programs elsewhere.
"We need better special education programs," said Henderson. "We need more career and technical education programs. We need more alternative options for our young people who aren't succeeding in a traditional school setting. And we need more programs for our advanced learners."
Only one high school is on the closure list, Spingarn High. However, Chancellor Henderson said she wants to eventually reopen Spingarn as a "career and technical center."
The D.C. Council will hold a hearing on the proposed school closures on Thursday. And there are a series of public meetings starting on November 27th.
The Chancellor does not want D.C. to dispose of the buildings to be closed. Demographers believe the 20-somethings who have moved into the city in recent years will soon be starting families. That means demand for public schools might increase in coming years.
Here is the list of schools slated for closing.
Ward 2: Francis Stevens Education Campus Garrison Elementary School
Ward 4: MacFarland Middle School Sharpe Health School
Ward 5: Mamie D. Lee School CHOICE Academy at Hamilton Marshall Elementary School Spingarn High School Spingarn STAY School
Ward 6: Prospect Learning Center Shaw Middle School @ Garnet-Patterson
Ward 7: Davis Elementary School Kenilworth Elementary School Ron Brown Middle School Smothers Elementary School Winston Elementary School
Ward 8: Ferebee Hope Elementary School Johnson Middle School Malcolm X Elementary School MC Terrell/McGogney Elementary School