Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has no greater antagonist on the City Council than Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). He has regularly denounced Rhee for not showing the Council what he regards as sufficient deference and respect. But the chancellor's proposed closure of two elementary schools in Ward 8 has them sharing an unusual venue: the same page.
"I agree. It makes sense, educationally and otherwise," Barry said yesterday of Rhee's plan to shutter Birney and Draper elementaries at the end of the school year. (He spoke about the schools issue before the story broke about prosecutors pursuing him on tax issues again.)
Draper, which can hold 352 students, has only 84 this year, with enrollment expected to drop even further next fall. Rhee wants to move the children to nearby Ferebee-Hope, which has 271 students but is operating at about 50 percent of capacity. Birney has been accomodating students displaced by the remodeling of Savoy Elementary. All of its kids would move there in August.
Rhee also proposed closing Webb in Ward 5, which has served as a receiving school for students from Wheatley. All Webb students would move to Wheatley.
Some community leaders said last week that Draper and Birney should remain open to support new residential construction planned for the area. Barry said the development, should it come to pass, will not attract significant numbers of families with schoolage children.