- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2008

Six D.C. schools scheduled to close as part of a consolidation plan will stay open while four others were added to the list of schools to be shuttered in the next three years, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said yesterday.

The revision from 23 to 21 schools slated to be closed was an acknowledgement of widespread community opposition to the proposal and complaints from D.C. Council members that they were left out of the decision-making process.

“We got a lot of good comments and good feedback on those originally proposed and we made the modifications accordingly,” Mrs. Rhee said.

The schools removed from the list were Bruce Monroe Elementary in Northwest, John Burroughs Elementary in Northeast, Smothers Elementary in Northeast, Ronald H. Brown Middle School in Northeast, Browne Junior High in Northeast and Shaw Junior High in Northwest.

Those schools were replaced by Benning Elementary in Northeast, Park View Elementary in Northwest, Garnet-Patterson Middle School in Northeast and Merritt Middle School in Northeast. Benning and Merritt will close at the end of the school year, while Park View and Garnet-Patterson will not close until at least 2011.

Mrs. Rhee and Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, have scheduled a hearing for Feb. 27 at McKinley Tech High School in Northeast to discuss the revisions.

Mr. Fenty and Mrs. Rhee were joined at the announcement yesterday by Council members Harry Thomas, Ward 5 Democrat, and Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat. The council members have been two of the most vocal opponents of the plan, proposing legislation that would require council approval to close any school.

Mr. Thomas said the revisions show the mayor has been responsive and sensitive to the concerns of his constituents but that he will not withdraw the bill at least until the public vetting process is complete.

“We’re going to keep our vigilance up until we’re sure everything is where it’s supposed to be,” he said. “You don’t automatically sign a peace treaty.”

Mr. Fenty reiterated yesterday that the closed schools would not be sold, addressing the concerns of some residents who say the closings were motivated by a plan to sell the properties to developers.

Maria Jones, a spokeswoman for Coalition to Save Our Neighborhood Schools, which Thursday organized a march protesting the closings, said the plan shortchanges certain neighborhoods. She also said the mayor did not make an effort to engage the community on the issue, opting instead to divide opponents by scheduling 23 simultaneous public meetings on the subject last month.

“The 23 separate meetings were a complete sham of democracy,” Miss Jones said. “And to take off six schools and then add four more — it doesn’t solve anything.”

City officials have proposed the closings as a way to counter declining enrollment in the 49,000-student school system and to fund new academic programs.

The school system has 141 buildings that cover about 15 million square feet.

Mrs. Rhee said a typical school system should have about 150 square feet of space per student, but the District has about 330 square feet per student. Under the plan the system would decrease by nearly 20 percent to about 270 square feet per student.

SCHOOL CLOSINGS

Six D.C. schools scheduled to close as part of a consolidation plan will stay open while four others were added to a list of schools to be shuttered in the next three years.

Schools removed from the list:

Bruce-Monroe Elementary, Ward 1

John Burroughs Elementary, Ward 5

Smothers Elementary, Ward 7

Browne Junior High, Ward 5

Ron Brown Middle, Ward 7

Shaw Junior High, Ward 2

Schools added to the list:

Benning Elementary, Ward 7

Park View Elementary, Ward 1

Garnet-Patterson Middle, Ward 1

Merritt Middle, Ward 7

Source: D.C. Public Schools

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