- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 14, 2006

D.C. Public Schools officials have announced a long-term master plan that calls for the construction of more than 20 new schools and the modernization of more than 100 buildings in the next 15 years.

“This is a historic date in public education for the District of Columbia,” D.C. schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey said at a briefing on the plan yesterday at Thomson Elementary School in Northwest. “We now have the stars aligned.”

The Master Facilities Plan is intended to coincide with the school system’s Master Education Plan, and will be backed by about $2.3 billion in city funding. It includes a series of goals that officials hope will be accomplished by 2021.

Officials said they will spend about $250 million annually while funding as many as 20 projects each year. This year, they expect to build six new schools and modernize 10.

By 2021, the plan states that 23 new schools will have been built and 101 will have been modernized.

In the meantime, the plan proposes fixing urgent maintenance issues — such as plumbing, heating and air conditioning — at schools not scheduled for renovation until 10 or 15 years later.

“Our goal really is that the District of Columbia public schools will be the first choice and the only choice for parents who live and pay taxes here,” said Carolyn N. Graham, vice president of the D.C. Board of Education.

Other goals of the Master Facilities Plan include:

• Consolidating and organizing high schools on one campus.

• Feeding middle schools into nearby high schools by establishing common academic threads.

• Improving special needs programs to bring in more than 2,000 special needs students that attend nonpublic schools outside the system.

• Moving the system’s administrative offices to excess school buildings.

A key issue in the facilities plan is the Board of Education’s mandate to the system to identify 3 million square feet of underused school space by July 2008.

This summer, school officials closed or consolidated 13 schools, accounting for 1 million of the requested space. Mr. Janey has proposed closing 19 under-enrolled schools — accounting for 2 million more square feet — on a staggered schedule by 2019.

Mr. Janey said the closings are subject to change with the District’s ever-evolving communities.

“We’ll be taking a look every two years to see if demographics change significantly to see if that school should be closed,” Mr. Janey said. “If we had a static list and ignored changes in our community, it would be pretty silly.”

Mr. Janey said he will brief Adrian M. Fenty, the District’s Democratic candidate for mayor, on the plan in the near future.

The school system will hold community briefings this month on the facilities plan in areas affected by the proposal. The Board of Education is expected to hold public hearings on the plan next month.



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