D.C. school officials said Chancellor Kaya Henderson will announce final decisions about District school closures Thursday, two months after she first proposed shuttering 20 city schools for low enrollment.
Henderson argues that she must close half-empty schools in order to use resources more efficiently, redirecting them from administration and maintenance to teaching and learning.
The chancellor initially said that 20 schools must close, but in recent weeks she has appeared to soften, leaving parents, students and teachers hoping that their schools might be among those spared.
“We don’t have to have 20 necessarily,” Henderson said earlier this month on WAMU’s (88.5-FM) Kojo Nnamdi Show. “We haven’t quite decided ... how many will ultimately make the final list.”
The chancellor has urged parents not just to plead for schools to stay open, but to offer concrete ideas for increasing enrollment. Many parents responded to that call, offering a raft of alternative proposals.
The prospect of closures has triggered intense debate about the future of the city school system, including at community meetings across the District and at two D.C. Council hearings that together lasted longer than 14 hours.
Some parents and activists worry that shuttering schools will drive District families into the city’s fast-growing charter schools, which could lead to declining enrollment and further closures.
Critics have also argued that Henderson has not said how much money would be saved or how, exactly, closing some schools would strengthen others. Former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee’s closure of 23 schools in 2008 cost millions more than initially reported, according to an audit released in 2012.
“We’ll provide detailed savings estimates when we release our final plan later this week,” Henderson tweeted on Monday.
Many community members are hopeful that Henderson will outline plans Thursday for the future of shuttered schools. The chancellor has said that in 2008, the school system erred when it closed buildings without a clear plan for how they would be used again.
“My commitment is to find a new use for each of the buildings that are no longer occupied by our schools,” Henderson said in November.