D.C. School Closings List Is Revised

By Theola Labbé and David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, February 2, 2008

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee gave a reprieve yesterday to six schools originally targeted in their school closing plan but added four new ones to the list.

Added are Benning Elementary and Merritt Middle in Northeast, both of which would close in June, and Garnet-Patterson Middle and Park View Elementary in Northwest, which would close by 2011 or later, the mayor said.

The schools no longer on the list are Bruce-Monroe Elementary in Northwest and John Burroughs and Smothers elementaries in Northeast; Ronald H. Brown Middle and Browne Middle, both in Northeast, and Shaw Middle in Northwest.

Fenty and Rhee said the revised plans were the result of hours of public comments from nine meetings and 23 public hearings since November. During those sessions, they were commended for seeking to pare down excess space in the 49,600-student school system, and they were the object of protests from parents who said the administration had overlooked safety issues and failed to consider the strength of academic programs.

The revised list reflects public feedback on the proposal but also is the result of Rhee's reexamination of the plan, said spokeswoman Mafara Hobson.

Fenty and Rhee did not give detailed reasons for adding or subtracting a school from the list. City education leaders previously have said that student enrollment and population trends were factors in the decision.

Unlike preceding school leaders, who proposed staggering closures over the next decade, Fenty and Rhee are sticking to their plans to shut 23 schools within a few years. Sixteen schools would close in June and seven closings would be spread over the next few years, Fenty said yesterday. More than 5,300 students attend the closing schools.

Officials have not announced what will happen to the schools, but Fenty said: "We will keep all the schools within the inventory of the D.C. government. We don't intend to sell any of them."

The revised plan drew fresh ire from parents with children at schools added to the list.

Yvette Moore, 41, who graduated from Merritt, as did her two older children, said she was considering sending her third child there but found it "amazing" to see the school on the to-be-closed list. She said it seems the school is being judged because of a few poorly performing students.

"I know a couple of kids are having some issues, but I'm still puzzled. It seems like most kids are doing okay," she said.

She said she does not like the idea of sending her son to Ronald H. Brown Middle School, the designated transfer school, which she said is in a dangerous neighborhood and is too far away for her son to walk there.

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