Though some council members expressed concerns about this plan and about certain schools (both Graham and Evans are supportive of keeping Garrison open), none of them seemed to oppose this round of closures. Once public testimony started, many folks spoke passionately about the need to stop the cycle of closing schools and losing students and the resources tied to them. Many people supported the need for a moratorium. A powerful point was brought up by the Garrison and Francis-Stevens communities. Though they are currently labeled as under-enrolled, they are working hard to build strong programs to build up their enrollment. They are motivated and trying, yet DCPS is not giving them the chance or time to “Prove What’s Possible”.
Here is what I hope may be some helpful observations from this hearing:
- Many on the Council agreed as Ward 3 councilmember Mary Che put it: “We need a plan that’s forward looking and attempts to save our schools, not wait until things are on a downward spiral and then say we have to close some.”
- That being said, aside from talking about concerns with closing certain schools in their respective Wards, no one on the council outright opposed the plan to close more schools. I don’t think anyone on the Council is willing to take a leadership role on this issue.
- When parents and community members spoke about wanting to keep their schools open, several council members (Wells, Catania, Mendelson) badgered them with the common narrative of “how are we supposed to keep them open without spending more money”. I would suggest turning the table and asking them, as elected officials, what they are planning to do to ensure the longevity and success of neighborhood public schools of right.
- I think a strong point was made to the Council when Councilmember Wells asked a parent from Garrison what she would do if Garrison is closed. She said that though she wants to stay in the city and in a public school, a closure would most likely force her to leave DCPS and even the city. The Council and the Chancellor need to hear and understand that closures push students and families out of DCPS.
- Chairman Mendelson at the end of the hearing (after 11 pm) wanted Chancellor Henderson to talk about the following questions for the upcoming hearing on the 19th (2-6 pm):
- How do charters sustain enrollments of 300 or below?
- What will DCPS do to not have a repeat of the loss of students from the 2008 closures
- How does DCPS plan to increase enrollment?
- Does DCPS have a comprehensive plan?
- Is consolidation causing lower enrollment?
- Many witnesses talked about if there is a need to cut funds, cuts should be made at the central office which has grown even as student enrollment has gotten smaller (he wants her to talk about that
- Strong testimony was given about the success Tyler elementary had in raising their enrollment, how can it be replicated in other schools?
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly via phone or e-mail. We will be keeping you posted on opportunities to fight back against these unjust and hurtful school closures. Given the fact that the Mayor, Chancellor, and City Council are resigned to the idea of closing more schools being necessary, we need to continue to organize, build power, and demand what we want and need.
Daniel del Pielago
1419 V Street, NW
202-234-9119 xt. 104
It should be noted that the school closing hearings themselves would not be taking place were it not for the efforts of Empower DC’s education campaign, members of which made the demand.