- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2006

Members of the D.C. school board and Superintendent Clifford B. Janey announced yesterday the closure of six public schools before the fall term, an action that will move affected students into other facilities in a bid to downsize the system, save money and combine resources.

The schools that will be closed are Shadd, Terrell and Van Ness elementary schools and Fletcher-Johnson Educational Center in Southeast; Merritt Educational Center in Northeast; and Walker-Jones Elementary School in Northwest.

The recommendations are the first phase of a plan to close as many as 30 schools before the 2008 school year.

“Its not really a question of brick and mortar, and its not really a question of the willingness on our part … of right-sizing for the sake of right-sizing,” Mr. Janey said. “It has a lot to do with the lack of firepower of certain schools to offer programs that they could not do unless there was a kind of merger or combination.”

No school staffers will lose their jobs as a result of the downsizing, Mr. Janey said. Instead, they will be transferred to other schools.

Closing the buildings, which total about 1 million square feet, will save the District $8.2 million over fiscal 2007, officials said.

“It was a risk on our part. We really questioned and challenged ourselves about the decision,” said school board Vice President Carolyn N. Graham. “We’re proud to say that what [he] has given us is a document of something to begin working with. …”

Officials said the shuttered buildings will remain in the control of the school board.

“We will enter into relationships with developers to do a variety of things,” Mrs. Graham said.

Officials said the buildings will be rented out to bring the city income that can help pay for programs proposed in Mr. Janey’s master education plan, released earlier this year.

The buildings can also be used for public-private partnerships, Mr. Janey said, but not for condominiums or housing.

“We must generate additional fiscal resources in order to do the proper education that we need to do,” Mr. Graham said.

The school board will vote on the closures at a meeting on June 28, and do not plan to change the list of schools that will be closed.

The downsizing will occur during the summer.

The school board will hold public meetings before the vote in the communities where the closures will occur.

School officials said the hearings will help the city decide how to best use the buildings.

“We will honor the community’s input in the process,” Mrs. Graham said.

“Will the changes deviate from the principles that we’ve adopted? No.”

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