Closed D.C. public school to reopen as a charter

M.C. Terrell-McGogney Elementary, one of 13 traditional D.C. schools that closed in June for low enrollment, is slated to reopen in the fall as Somerset Preparatory Academy Public Charter School.

The conversion of the Southeast Washington school underscores the District’s tilt toward fast-growing charters, which enroll more than 40 percent of the city’s students.

Somerset Preparatory Academy is one of four charters opening in the District in August. The first D.C. school in a charter network operating across Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, it will enroll about 200 students this year in grades 6 through 8.

The college prep school plans to grow each year, eventually serving more than 800 students in grades 6 through 12. Its board of directors has contracted with Academica, a for-profit Florida company that provides back-
office and academic services to more than 100 charter schools. across the country.

Somerset is moving into M.C. Terrell-McGogney on a one-year sublease from the Charter School Incubator Initiative, a public-private partnership between the D.C. government and the nonprofit organization Building Hope that aims to help new schools afford facilities.

The school will pay 80 percent of its facilities allowance — or $2,400 per pupil — in rent this year, according to Somerset Board Chairman Joe Bruno, who is also the president of Building Hope. Bruno said he is interested in applying for a long-term lease when Gray administration officials put the building out for competitive bids this year.

Parents of students who attended M.C. Terrell-McGogney said they were surprised by plans for the building because Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson had told them that the school would not become a charter.

“Why did she tell us that?” asked Donna Stewart, who served as PTA president and said the school’s closure disrupted students’ relationships with each other and with teachers. “It’s unfair that all of those relationships had to be split off for you to do the opposite of what you said.”

A schools spokeswoman declined to comment. Henderson’s school closure plan, released in January, did not identify what would happen to M.C. Terrell-McGogney but said D.C. public schools officials would “continue to engage the community and district agencies in the re-use” of the building.

M.C. Terrell-McGogney is one of a dozen surplus school buildings that Gray administration officials plan to release to charters on long-term leases this year.

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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