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Schools Targeted For Closure

By Theola Labbé and V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee have proposed to close 23 underenrolled public schools, all but three this summer. The proposal has generated numerous complaints from parents who will voice their objections at a series of hearings this week and from council members who say they were excluded from Fenty's decision-making process. No schools in Ward 3 are affected, and Ward 5 has the most proposed closings.

Bruce-Monroe Elementary

(closing 2010)

Built in 1973, when the open-space classroom design was all the craze, Bruce-Monroe sits on Georgia Avenue NW. More than two-thirds of the 307 students are from low-income households, and 62 percent are Hispanic. The school has a dual-language program for pre-kindergarten to first grade. Sixty percent of the students come from outside the neighborhood. Principal Marta Palacios has been praised for knitting a diverse community into a strong school where 41 percent of students passed a standardized test in reading and 40 percent passed a test in math, exceeding benchmarks.

Bruce-Monroe's enrollment declined by less than the median enrollment loss between 2002 and 2006, but Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee recommended closure in part because of "the size and condition of the building."

Dozens of angry parents and students held up protest signs at a community meeting last year when Rhee announced the school was closing. The proposal calls for students to attend nearby Park View at 3560 Warder St. NW. About 89 percent of its 162 students are African American.

Gage-Eckington Elementary

Built in 1977, the school has a close relationship with Howard University, whose students provide tutoring. This was one of the "buff-and-scrub" schools spruced up last summer. It needs repairs to two classrooms damaged by water. Its students are 99 percent black and 85 percent low-income. Enrollment dropped 35 percent between 2002 and 2006, the last year for which there are final numbers. On last year's standardized tests, 35 percent of students were proficient in reading, and 21 percent were proficient in math.

Students would go to one of four other elementary schools: Cleveland, 1825 Eighth St. NW; Montgomery, 421 P St. NW; Seaton, 1503 10th St. NW; or Emery, 1720 First St. NE.

Meyer Elementary

Adjacent to the Garfield Terrace public housing complex, the school has a capacity for 428 students, but 169 are enrolled. Meyer experienced a 49 percent enrollment decline between 2002 and 2006. Garfield Terrace parents told the chancellor they didn't want their children walking a greater distance to school. Several teachers have boasted that the academic program is strong. Students would go to Tubman Elementary, 3101 13th St. NW; Bruce-Monroe, 3012 Georgia Ave. NW (temporarily); Marie Reed Learning Center, 2200 Champlain St. NW; or H.D. Cooke Elementary, which is temporarily at 300 Bryant St. NW.

Shaw Middle

Shaw is the city's largest middle school and, according to Rhee, too big for its enrollment, which is 154 in a building designed for 765 students. Because of repeated poor test scores, Shaw is the target of academic restructuring programs. (Schools with failing test scores for several years must undergo a major academic and administrative overhaul, according to federal law. Shaw students would go to Garnet-Patterson Middle, 2001 10th St. NW. It has a new gym and will have a gifted-and-talented program next fall.

Stevens Elementary

Stevens was built in the 1800s to house up to 324 students. But the school lost 28 percent of its students between 2002 and 2006 and now has 231.

Last year, 46 percent of students were proficient in reading and 27 percent in math.

Under the proposal, Stevens students would transfer to Francis, 2425 N St. NW, which would expand to pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. School system officials said the move would provide Stevens students with amenities they now lack, such as an auditorium, a gym and playing fields.

But Stevens parents say they are worried about having their children in the same building as middle-schoolers. Stevens is "a small school, which I prefer," said Crystala Lewis, who has a son in preschool. At Francis, "my son will have to enter through a metal detector. It's disturbing."

Clark Elementary

Built in 1968 for a capacity of 352 students, the school has about 200. Between 2002 and 2006, the school lost 29 percent of its enrollment.

Last year, 47 percent of students were proficient in math and reading.

Under the proposal, Clark students would enroll at Barnard Elementary, 430 Decatur St. NW; Powell Elementary, 1350 Upshur St. NW; or Truesdell Elementary, 800 Ingraham St. NW. Truesdell is in restructuring because of its poor test scores.

Some teachers said they oppose the closing, saying Clark's small enrollment benefits students. "It's a small school. We would like to stay there," said Deloris Braxton, who teaches English as a second language. "Sometimes when the situation gets huge, children get lost."

Rudolph Elementary

Rudolph was built in 1940 for 547 students. But the building is at 42 percent capacity with 228. The school's enrollment dropped 50 percent between 2002 and 2006. Last year, 29 percent of students were proficient in reading, 27 percent in math. The proposal calls for transferring Rudolph students to either Barnard or Whittier Elementary, 6201 Fifth St. NW.

Bertie Backus Middle

The spacious building atop a hill in Northeast can accommodate 620 students, but its enrollment dropped 67 percent between 2002 and 2006, and it now has 141.

Last year, 15 percent of the students were proficient in reading, 8 percent in math. Students would go to Taft Center, 1800 Perry St. NE, which would shift from being used as the special education Choice Academy to a traditional school with grades pre-K through 8. Taft students would move to the special education Hamilton Center, 1401 Brentwood Pkwy. NE.

Bunker Hill Elementary (closing date not determined)

Bunker Hill's enrollment has dropped by 42 percent in recent years, but Principal Amanda Alexander has tried to reverse that trend with heavy recruiting. Last year, 44 percent of the students were proficient in reading, 39 percent in math.

Students from Brookland Elementary, 1150 Michigan Ave. NE, would temporarily relocate to Bunker Hill, which can accommodate up to 507 students, beginning in the 2008-09 school year so that nearby Brookland can be rebuilt. Starting in August, the combined schools would also have an early childhood program. After construction is complete, all students would move into the new Brookland, and Bunker Hill would close.

John Burroughs Elementary

The school was built in 1921 to accommodate 472 students, but it enrolls 242.

Under the proposal, Burroughs students would move into the Taft Center.

Last year, 56 percent of Burroughs students were proficient in reading and 42 percent in math. Parents oppose the plan to close the school, citing its $300,000 math lab and its accreditation, a rarity for an elementary school in the system.

Burroughs parents have been among the most vocal opponents of the closure plan, demonstrating in front of the John A. Wilson Building and at community meetings. They've set up a Web site, http://www.savejohnburroughsdc.com. "You haven't included the people in this process," said Clarence Cherry, president of the PTA. "We're going to fight this."

J.F. Cook Elementary

J.F. Cook lost 22 percent of its enrollment between 2002 and 2006 and has 184 students. Last year, 13 percent of the students were proficient in reading and 14 percent in math.

Students would go to Emery; Walker-Jones/R.H. Terrell Elementary, 100 L St. NW, which is slated to get a newly modernized building in future years; or Montgomery, which will have a new early childhood program.

Slowe Elementary

With neighborhood parents increasingly sending their children to charter schools, enrollment at Slowe has dipped to just 83. Between 2002 and 2006, it had a 64 percent decline. Mary McLeod Bethune charter school is sharing space this year in the building, which can accommodate 451 students. Last year, 36 percent of Slowe students were proficient in reading, 16 percent in math.

Students could shift to Noyes Elementary, 2725 10th St. NE, which officials say will be fully staffed, unlike Slowe; Langdon Elementary, 1900 Evarts St. NE, which will have a new science and math program; or the Taft Center, which will have a fine arts program.

PTA President Terri Anomnachi told Rhee at a hearing that parents were not fighting to keep the small school open but wanted to be sure that officials had carefully considered whether the closure plans would result in safer schools with stronger academic programs.

M.M. Washington

M.M. Washington offers students training in culinary arts, marketing and barbering.

Built in 1912 to accommodate 475 students, it has 387, including a special education program. Overall enrollment increased by about 50 from last year, bringing it above the level it was at five years ago. While the special education enrollment grew, the number of students in the career trades program decreased 20 percent in between 2002 and 2006 and is now at 289.

Last year, 32 percent of students were proficient in reading, and 21 percent were proficient in math.

Under the proposal, students in the trades programs would transfer to Cardozo Senior High, 1200 Clifton St. NW, and Roosevelt Senior High, 4301 13th St. NW. Special education students would move to schools closer to their homes.

Darlene Babil, president of the school's PTA, expressed dismay at the school's slow demise. Over the years, it has been cutting programs. "They had a very good program. All the students who came there were there because they wanted to get a jump on the things they wanted to do in their careers," Babil said. "Why would you eliminate that?"

Young Elementary/

Browne Middle

These schools are adjacent, and Rhee hasn't decided which one to close. At Young, enrollment dropped 29 percent between 2002 and 2006. Last year, 26 percent of the students were proficient in reading and 11 percent in math.

Browne can hold more than 800 students but has 211 this year, with a drop of 27 percent in recent years. Last year, 18 percent of the students were proficient in reading; in math, 25 percent.

Bowen Elementary

The school, built in 1931, is not as underenrolled as many of the others on the closure list, with 221 students, 60 below capacity. Still, the school's enrollment fell 21 percent between 2002 and 2006. Last year, 36 percent of students were proficient in reading and 25 percent were proficient in math.

Students would transfer to Amidon Elementary, 401 I St. SW, where a high-tech program would be established.

Gibbs Elementary

Built in 1966 to house 531 students, the school has slightly more than half that: 281. The school lost 44 percent of its enrollment between 2002 and 2006. Just 20 percent of the students are proficient in reading, 12 percent in math. Students would go to Miner Elementary, 601 15th St. NE, which is a newer building; or Browne or Young, at 850 and 820 26th St. NE, respectively. Sixth-graders would go to Eliot Middle, 1830 Constitution Ave. NE, which is in restructuring.

Hine Middle

Since being built in 1966, the Capitol Hill school has been a center of community, with its parking lot and basketball courts in full use on the weekends by residents and flea market vendors. It was meant to house 720 students. But with 268 students, Hine is using 37 percent of its capacity. Last year, 21 percent of students were proficient in reading and 18 percent in math.

Rhee's proposal calls for Hine students to transfer to Eliot, which is using 18 percent of its building. Eliot had previously leased its empty space to a charter school.

Smothers Elementary

Built in 1923 to house 332 students, Smothers's enrollment has dropped to 186. It lost about 21 percent of its enrollment between 2002 and 2006.

Last year, 32 percent of students were proficient in reading, 20 percent in math. Students would be reassigned to Aiton Elementary, 533 48th Place NE; Benning Elementary, 100 41st St. NE; or J.C. Nalle Elementary, 219 50th St. SE.

Ronald H. Brown Middle

The school was built in 1967 to house 1,085 students. Now, with only 263 students, the school is at 24 percent capacity. The school lost nearly half its enrollment in recent years. Last year, 20 percent of students were proficient in reading and 12 percent in math, and because of years of poor test scores, the school is eligible to be restructured.

Brown students would be reassigned to Merritt, 5002 Hayes St. NE, which also lost nearly half of its enrollment in recent years. Brown would house students from H.D. Woodson Senior High during construction of its new facility.

Douglass Transition Academy and

Choice Academy

Both programs enroll students citywide. Douglass, built in 1952, is a special education program, and its students would move into classrooms across the city. Choice is an alternative suspension program at Douglass and Taft. Officials plan to combine the two locations at the Hamilton Center.

Officials say Douglass could be better used to temporarily house students from schools that are under construction or leased out to other groups.

Green Elementary (closing date not determined)

Built in 1965 to house 458 students, Green enrolls 238 students. It lost 35 percent of its enrollment between 2002 and 2006. Last year, 25 percent of students were proficient in reading; in math, 19 percent. It is in restructuring.

Under the proposal, students from nearby Turner Elementary, 3264 Stanton Rd. SE, would temporarily move to Green in the fall while the Turner building is modernized. Turner lost 25 percent of its enrollment in recent years. Once construction is complete, all students would move into the new Turner, and Green would close.

Patricia R. Harris Educational Center

Harris was built in 1976 to house 1,082 students; 532 now attend. Last year, 22 percent of students were proficient in reading, 15 percent in math.

Students in pre-K through fifth grade would be reassigned to Patterson Elementary, 4399 South Capitol Terr. SW; Hendley Elementary, 425 Chesapeake St. SE; or Leckie Elementary, 4201 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SW. Sixth- through eighth-graders would go to Hart Middle School, 601 Mississippi Ave. SE.

Wilkinson Elementary

The school was built in 1976 and designed for 508 students. It lost 28 percent of its students between 2002 and 2006 and enrolls 365.

Last year, 32 percent of students were proficient in reading; 9 percent were in math.

Under the proposal, students would be reassigned to Moten Elementary, 1565 Morris Rd. SE, which lost 32 percent of its enrollment in recent years and is in restructuring.

Staff writer Robert Pierre contributed to this report.

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