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Students At Closing D.C. Schools Not Re-Enrolling In New Schools

Only a small number of students from 13 D.C. schools closing this year are re-enrolling in receiving schools.
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Only a small number of students from 13 D.C. schools closing this year are re-enrolling in receiving schools.

Almost 87 percent of students at 13 D.C. public schools closing this year have yet to re-enroll in receiving schools, testified D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson during a D.C. Council committee hearing yesterday.

During the hearing, which focused on transitioning students and teachers from the closing schools to new public schools, Henderson said that re-enrollment was lagging behind, but that school officials were reaching out to parents to ensure that their children stayed in the public school system. Henderson said that she hoped to keep 80 percent of the 2,000 students affected by the closures this year.

But according to a presentation she gave legislators, only three of 17 receiving schools are currently above 55 percent of projected enrollment, while the remaining 14 schools have until June 21 to reach that number. Henderson said that many parents wait until later in the summer to enroll their children in school.

Council member David Catania (I-At Large), who chairs the Council's education committee, said he was concerned. "There are real consequences for failing not to meet these deadlines," he said.

Catania noted that if enrollment projections were not met, schools would see budget cuts next year, which could drive even more students from traditional public schools to charter schools. He called that possibility "another rendezvous with instability."

Enrollment at the city's expanding charter sector has grown aggressively in recent years, reaching 43 percent of all D.C. students, while enrollment in traditional public schools has remained mostly flat. In announcing a plan to close 15 public schools over the next two years, Henderson said that fewer but more adequately enrolled schools would allow her to steer more money towards instruction and programs that would attract new parents to public schools.

At the hearing, Henderson said that with the closures, she would be able to ensure that more schools can offer expanded programming like arts and music while also providing expanding library services to students.

Critics of the school closures say that the majority of the 2,800 students affected will instead choose to enroll in charter schools. They argue that after D.C. closed 23 public schools in 2008, close to 3,000 students chose not to re-enroll in the public school system.

In May a D.C. judge shot down a lawsuit that attempted to stop the planned closures, which were first announced late last year and fine-tuned in January 2013.

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