D.C. chancellor's facility-closing plans rile some parents

May 7, 2008
School system is moving fast to eliminate under-used buildings
One of the top objectives of Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee is to reduce the amount of space occupied by a school system that has seen its enrollment cut in half since 1960. But her key selling point to parents upset about the school closures--that the savings will mean more for their children in the form of music and art teachers, math and literacy coaches, psychologists--may be at risk. A proposal by D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray to divert $18 million into school modernization efforts will make the academic upgrades more difficult to achieve.To read The Washington Post article, click here.

FROM FEBRUARY 2008: The cost of closing 23 Washington, D.C., schools and making repairs to other school buildings that will receive students will be at least $110 million. Private contractors and school system workers have to build age-appropriate restrooms for pre-kindergarten students, increase gymnasium space at some schools and add classrooms, among other projects.
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EARLIER: After concluding a first round of public assemblies on a proposal to close 23 schools, the Washington, D.C., school system held a hearing on a revised list, which substitutes four buildings. The newly added schools are Benning Elementary; Park View Elementary; Garnet-Patterson Middle School; and Merritt Middle School. Angry parents from those schools told official why their underenrolled buildings should remain open. Benning and Merritt would close in the fall. Garnet-Patterson and Park View would close in 2011.
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The decision by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee to revise the list of Washington, D.C., schools they plan to close leaves some wondering if the changes will affect programs housed at those schools.
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Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee have given a reprieve to six schools originally targeted in their school closing plan. However, they added four new ones to the list. Added are Benning Elementary and Merritt Middle, both of which would close in June, and Garnet-Patterson Middle and Park View Elementary, which would close by 2011 or later. No longer on the list are three elementary schools: Bruce-Monroe, John Burroughs and Smothers; and three middle schools: Ronald H. Brown, Browne, and Shaw.
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ALSO: The White House is proposing $32 million in additional federal funding this year to Washington, D.C., for public education, including a special $20 million payment aimed at helping Mayor Fenty restructure public schools.
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More than 100 Washington, D.C., students, parents and supporters took their displeasure over a proposal to close 23 schools to the school system's headquarters in the latest show of opposition to the plan. Since officials announced in November that they intend to close schools and consolidate students, the plans have been praised by some parents and others for attempting to reduce the size of a 49,600-student system with some nearly empty buildings. But some parents and elected officials have expressed strong opposition, saying they are dissatisfied with the level of community input.
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Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee says she intends to make "significant changes" in her school closure proposal, but won't say whether any of the 23 schools targeted for closing would come off the list, as numerous parents are demanding. Rhee has scheduled 23 simultaneous public hearings Thursday night on the closures, and at the same time two city council members are sponsoring a citywide "Peoples Meeting" that parents called for in opposition to the school district hearings.
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Parents and community activists in Washington, D.C., are calling for a boycott of next week's 23 public hearings on school closings and have set up a single meeting for residents to attend instead. The multiple gatherings, critics say, are an effort to minimize public input. Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee has proposed closing 23 underenrolled schools by summer, an effort aimed at addressing the system's declining enrollment.
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SIDEBAR: Information on the 23 schools targeted for closure in Washington, D.C. Click here to read The Washington Post article.

FROM DECEMBER 2007: Washington, D.C., plans to hold 23 public hearings at the same time Jan. 17 to seek comments on a plan to close school buildings. Residents who oppose the closings contend that school and city officials are seeking to minimize opposition to the closing plan.
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Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has won a victory in her effort to shake up the school district's central office as the D.C. Council voted 10 to 3 to give her the power to fire nonunion workers without cause, an action supporters say could remove a major barrier to education reform.
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Several lawmakers say the Washington, D.C., Council is likely to approve two bills that would give Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee the authority to fire nonunion central office employees and the funds to carry out the proposed closings of 23 public schools. Both bills, requested by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, have drawn protests from different fronts and have been complicated by a budget deficit facing the school system.
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Washington, D.C., education leaders encountered a hostile crowd of parents and community leaders in the city's Ward 5 as they tried for the first time to explain to residents their proposal to close 23 schools. Seven of the 23 are in Ward 5, where more than 200 people turned out for a town hall meeting. Mayor Adrian Fenty has told the D.C. Council that the plan could save the school system $23.6 million, money that could help the school system address a budget shortfall.
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Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty's proposal to close more than 20 schools has alienated many members of the City Council who feel they have not been consulted about the plan. Fenty's eagerness to show quick progress in improving schools has butted up against the need to build partnerships with the elected leaders and parents whose support he must maintain. The council cannot vote directly on the school closings, it will vote Dec. 11 on the school system's request for $81 million in supplemental funds to carry out the closings and partially cover a projected deficit.
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From November 2007: Washington, D.C., is considering closing 19 schools next summer and five others by summer 2010, according to a confidential document prepared by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education. A Nov. 19 letter to City Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray was the first indication from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee that they will continue former superintendent Clifford B. Janey's plans to eliminate millions of square feet of unused space. The 24 schools that could close are 16 elementary schools, three middle schools, one high school and four others, such as special education facilities.
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