D.C. Public Schools officials last night began their tour of the District to hear residents' concerns about a plan to close 20 public schools. Approximately 100 parents and community members attended a meeting in Ward 8 to voice concerns about how the closures would affect their community.
The school closure plan, which Chancellor Kaya Henderson unveiled earlier this month, is meant to better match the number of school buildings with the number of students enrolled in the system. Ward 8 has the highest number of school age children in the city at more than 16,000, but it has four schools slated to close at the end of this academic year: Ferebee-Hope, Malcom X and Terrell-McGogney elementary schools as well as Johnson Middle School.
Alicia Rucker, a single mother who spoke at the meeting, spoke of the possible financial impacts the closures could bring. It will be expensive for families if they have to start taking public transportation rather than walking to a neighborhood school, she said.
"Walkability for the younger groups is ideal for a community because the school is supposed to be the anchor of the community," she added.
Another speaker, Ronald Hampton, pointed out that consolidating some middle and high schools to create 6th through 12th grade schools could affect student safety.
"When I look at their faces, they still look like babies," he said. "To me little people are little people and they need to be in buildings that can accommodate them as well as their culture."
Others were just looking for more specifics. Iris Toyer told DCPS officials Tuesday night that she's not opposed to the closings but wants more specificity about the proposal.
"The good things at the closing schools, are they going to be transferred to the receiving schools? How much of the staff will move to the children? she asked.
This was the first of several public meetings Henderson has planned to try and engage the community. But many residents last night were upset they were split into small groups and could not question the chancellor directly in front of everyone. Others wanted to know when they would get answers to the questions they had raised.
Another meeting is scheduled tonight for Wednesday, Nov. 28 at Sousa Middle School in Ward 7.