Earlier this year, Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced the closure of DC public schools due to budget pressure and low enrollment. The final list includes 15 schools, which is more than one in 10 public schools in the District.
The elementary schools that will be closed for the next school year are Marshall Elementary School (Ward 5), Davis Elementary School (Ward 7), Kenilworth Elementary School (Ward 7), Ferebee-Hope Elementary School (Ward 8), and MC Terrell Elementary School (Ward 8). One school currently serving students through Grade 8, Winston Education Campus (Ward 7), is also slated to close. The closing middle schools include Shaw Middle School (Ward 1), MacFarland Middle School (Ward 4), and Ron Brown Middle School (Ward 7). The only high school to close will be Spingarn High School (Ward 5). In addition, the following special and alternative education schools will also close: Choice at Hamilton, Mamie D Lee (closing in 2014), Sharpe Health (closing in 2014), Prospect Learning Center, Springarn STAY. After feedback from the community, five schools that were slated to close will now remain open: Francis Stevens Education Campus (Ward 2), Garrison Elementary School (Ward 2), Smothers Elementary School (Ward 7), Johnson Middle School (Ward 8), and Malcolm X Elementary School (Ward 8).
The closure of DC public schools will affect over 2,400 students and more than 540 employees. But shuttering these schools will allow resources to be diverted away from building maintenance in order to refocus on students and teachers with new libraries, art classes, and additional foreign language courses. The school system estimates that closing the 15 schools listed above will save $19.5 million in staffing costs, while the transitions will cost $11 million.
The public schools in DC have lost over 100,000 students since the 1960s. The low enrollment in DC public schools has been affected by the rise in charter schools since the mid-1990s. Charter schools now educate over 40% of students in the District. While charter schools are publicly funded, they are not governed by the public school system.
But the closure of DC public schools does not mean more available real estate for charter schools. The school system plans to keep the buildings in case enrollment increases in the future.
In March, activists protested the closure of DC public schools with a lawsuit. They claim that the final list of schools violates civil rights laws by sparing schools in wealthy neighborhoods while unduly affecting poor, minority, and disabled students. In fact, all the closing schools are east of Rock Creek Park, with many in low-income areas of Anacostia. The school system denies any discriminatory practices in the selection of schools to close.
Stay tuned for the final outcome of the closure of DC public schools.