School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey issued a report to the D.C. Board of Education yesterday listing 16 underused schools that are candidates for sharing space with charter schools.
The board was to vote yesterday on whether to begin negotiating leases with the charter schools for space in those buildings. Instead, the board decided to delay a decision for as long as two weeks.
At a closed meeting before the board's open session, Janey said his staff had not completed demographic studies needed before the plan could be carried out, according to school board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz. And some members expressed concern during the open session that officials of schools on the list might not know they had been identified as candidates for the program.
"We have to be thoughtful and respectful of the community on whether they are selected for a site for co-location," said school board member Tommy Wells (District 3). "I don't think I've been assured all the principals have been notified."
The names of the schools were not mentioned during the meeting, but Janey's report identifies 11 schools as candidates for sharing space with charters this fall: Bunker Hill Elementary, Draper Elementary, Ferebee-Hope Elementary, Emery Elementary, Fletcher-Johnson Education Center, the vacant former Miner School, P.R. Harris Education Center, Tyler Elementary, Ron Brown Middle, Hart Middle and Sousa Middle.
The report identified five other schools as candidates for co-location in fall 2006, after Janey has completed a "master education plan" outlining the school system's academic and construction needs. Those schools are: Ballou Senior High, Coolidge Senior High, the vacant Phelps building, the McKinley Technology High School's unfinished "A Wing" and the M.M. Washington Career Senior High.
The plan to lease unused space in traditional schools to the charters -- many of which are in tight quarters because of surging enrollment -- is part of a broader move toward using space more efficiently throughout the school system to ease its financial problems. Janey has said he is open to the idea of closing or consolidating schools after the master education plan is finished.
Some board members said yesterday that the two-week delay was unfortunate in light of their efforts to get more school construction money from the city. Some D.C. Council members had said that the board needed to move on the co-location plan before they would consider providing the additional funds.
"We are now paying light bills and maintenance bills for tens of thousands of square feet not in use," Cafritz said. "I think the council will look more favorably on us if they perceive us to be responsible on this co-location issue."
Reached after the meeting, council member Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), who chairs the council's education committee, said she was "very disappointed" by the delay. "One could take from that that they feel they don't need any additional revenue," she said.
The co-location policy calls for the superintendent to establish the list of schools and for assistant superintendents to notify principals. School officials are to publish the list and seek requests from charter schools to lease space. Neighborhood councils would be notified 45 days before a scheduled public hearing on a proposed co-location. The school board would have the final say on the proposed leases.
Robert Cane, executive director of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools, a charter-school advocacy group, said the delay makes it difficult for the charter schools to be ready to lease space in the buildings by this fall.
"This was supposed to have been approved by the board at their March meeting," Cane said. "Approval of the list was to be the first step in a long process that was to be completed by the signing of leases in May. They've been working on this a year. Why haven't the principals been notified?"
The school board approved the school calendar yesterday for the 2005-06 year. The school year will begin Aug. 29 and end June 14, said Meria Carstarphen, chief accountability officer.