D.C. School Superintendent Floretta D. McKenzie has recommended to the school board that it close 11 elementary schools and one junior high as part of a cost-cutting measure.
School board member Frank Smith (Ward 1), chairman of the buildings and grounds committee, said yesterday that "unless there were some compelling reason not to close these schools," he would recommend that the McKenzie plan be approved.
Smith's committee will begin considering the proposal on Wednesday. He said the schools could be closed as of September, but that the board must hold a public hearing on each before final decisions are made.
School board member Bettie G. Benjamin, whose Ward 5 would lose four of the 12 schools, criticized the plan yesterday as unfair to her area.
"I think when the facts are laid out, Ward 5 will certainly not bear the brunt any more than any other ward in our city," Benjamin said.
The schools in Benjamin's ward include Hamilton, at Sixth Street and Brentwood Parkway NE, which serves as a junior high, a vocational school and a street academy; the Slater and Langston schools, which are in the same building at North Capitol and P streets NW, and Woodridge Elementary, at Carlton and Central avenues NE.
The other elementary schools on the list are:
Barnard, 400 block of Decatur Street NW; Carver, 45th and Lee streets NE; Cleveland, Eighth and T streets NW; Lovejoy, 12th and D streets NE; Nichols Avenue, 2427 Martin Luther King Ave. SE; Payne, 15th and C streets SE, and Syphax, Half and N streets SW.
Also on the list is the Bundy special school for the handicapped at 429 O St. NW.
Smith, noting that none of the schools is in predominantly white Ward 3, said he anticipated some complaints of racism, but said he "will examine . . . whether the board criteria was applied fairly . . . But I don't think racism was involved."
He said, for example, that there are only 1,119 vacant seats in Ward 3 schools, compared with 7,600 in Ward 7, which includes far Northeast, and that there is a total of 39,842 unused classroom seats in the city.
Smith said there were other under-utilized schools, but that most of them--including some in Ward 3--were of new construction, and that it would be "a waste of money" to close such buildings.
He said the superintendent's first considerations were of enrollment and the availability of schools close to the ones to be closed