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Community members are being asked for their input on a D.C. Public School proposal to close 20 schools in six wards across the city. The move ss necessary to "right-size" the District, says Chancellor Kaya Henderson, which currently uses far more school buildings than it has students.
The proposed school closures will affect approximately 3,000 students, but Henderson says it's about "using resources wisely."
"If we reduce the number of facilities we'll be able to improve the programs we offer, to utilize our staff more efficiently so we can concentrate on the things we know move things for kids," says Henderson.
Because there are so many under-enrolled schools, says Henderson, DCPS spends disproportionately large amounts of money on non-teaching positions, such as office and cleaning staff, instead of teachers.
"At almost half of our schools, schools only have one teacher per grade level. So teachers don't have the opportunity to plan lessons or work collaboratively, which is one of the things we know improves teacher performance," says Henderson.
The schools slated for closure are concentrated in wards 5, 7 and 8. Henderson considered how many students were currently enrolled in each school, in addition to population changes, and also reviewed the availability of other schools to receive these students and whether a building had been completely renovated. Wards 1 and 3 are unaffected because the schools there face overcrowding rather than under-enrollment.
But Henderson has not forgotten a similar school closure process in 2008, when 23 D.C. schools were shuttered, sparking widespread community anger and protests. To avoid that, Henderson is asking for the community's input in making the transition as "not-traumatic" as possible, she says. She isn't sure how many staff members will be laid off or how much DCPS will save.
The mayor and chancellor are expected to make a final decision on the list of closures in January and most of the school consolidations will go into effect in time for the next academic year.
Correction: The original version of this article misstated who would make the final decision on the DCPS school closures. The mayor and chancellor, not the D.C. Council, have the final say.DCPS Proposed Consolidations and Reorganization Plan