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Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 12/19/2011

D.C. school closings unlikely to be widespread in 2012

After some signals to the contrary, it is likely that no more than a few of D.C.’s many under-enrolled public schools--if that many-- will be proposed for closure at the end of the academic year.

One of them is River Terrace in Ward 7, which was on the chopping block last year before Chancellor Kaya Henderson granted a one-year extension to see if it could grow its population. But River Terrace remains the system’s most sparsely enrolled elementary school, with just 137 students as of October. Students would attend nearby Thomas Elementary. The proposed closure, outlined Friday in the D.C. Register, was first reported Sunday by The Washington Times.

On a couple of occasions in the last year, Henderson warned that DCPS has too many buildings for the number of students it serves. The city operates more than 40 schools with fewer than 300 students, more than half located in Wards 6, 7 and 8.

But any closures on the scale of the downsizing led by former Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee in 2008 is at least another year away.

Instead, Deputy Mayor for Education De’Shawn Wright says the city will spend the first half of 2012 in a round of discussions with DCPS, the D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB) and community stakeholders on how to align the city’s school system to create more “quality seats” in areas of the city where there are none.

The goal, according to Wright, is to develop a plan that would trigger major changes effective at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year. If it actually happens, it would be the first serious joint effort by the public and public charter sectors to envision what the city’s school map should look like.

Wright says the discussion will draw on — but not be driven by-- the findings of the IFF school capacity study he commissioned to identify communities in greatest need of more education options. After a two-month delay, caused by a combination of personnel issues at the Chicago consulting firm and Wright’s unrealistic initial timetable, the study is due to be rolled out next month. DCPS also has its own big picture study in the works, from Educational Resource Strategies (ERS), a Massachusetts non-profit that advises school systems on how to better manage and spend their money.

In an e-mail, Wright said he hopes to use February, March and April “to develop a robust portfolio of options” in concert with DCPS and PCSB, and then engage the public.

Under this scenario, a plan would be ready by mid-year.

By  |  11:15 AM ET, 12/19/2011

 
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