- A Jan. 18 Metro article incorrectly said that Victor Reinoso, D.C. deputy mayor for education, spoke to an audience at Park View Elementary School about a leak and future renovations at the school. Reinoso made the comments to a reporter.
Parents Slam Schools Plan at Hearings
Officials Criticized for Holding Talks on Proposed Closures in Bad Weather
Friday, January 18, 2008; Page B01
At the same time, nearly 200 people crammed into a room at the John A. Wilson Building for a "People's Meeting" sponsored by the Coalition to Save Our Neighborhood Schools, which organized to protest the closings and the simultaneous hearings.
School officials said more than 400 people attended the 23 hearings, but some of the assemblies were largely empty, possibly undercut by the bad weather, a boycott by the coalition and its counter-gathering.
Controversy about the proposed closures, which began in November when parents learned about Rhee's plan, continued last night with the competing assemblies and questions about why Fenty's hearings weren't canceled because of the weather.
Fenty and Rhee say the system has thousands of square feet in excess space because of years of declining enrollment. Rhee has estimated that the closures would save $23 million, which she said would be used to improve academics and provide better staffing at the remaining schools.
But the move would also mean that about 5,300 students, a little more than 10 percent of the student population, would be moved to other facilities.
Fenty, Rhee and Victor Reinoso, deputy mayor for education, shuttled between several of the hearings. But at those presided over by lower-level officials and at the protest meeting, questions far outweighed answers, leaving many frustrated.
Parents have objected to the closings for a variety of reasons, including a desire to maintain strong academic programs at particular schools and a fear that neighborhood rivalries will be exacerbated by consolidation.
"It's like crackhead economics," Jarumi Moore, a Francis Middle School seventh-grader, said at the Wilson Building of the closings plan. "They're thinking short term. We're thinking long term."
About 90 people attended a hearing at Park View Elementary School in Northwest Washington to loudly protest the closing of nearby Bruce-Monroe Elementary. Many of the people who testified spoke in Spanish, which was translated into English by an interpreter.
Reinoso told the audience that Park View would be renovated before receiving students from Bruce-Monroe. As he spoke, water streamed down a wall of Park View's 92-year-old auditorium.
Asked whether it was rainwater, Reinoso said: "I hope it's rainwater. If it's not rainwater, that means it's dripping all the time."