A committee of the D.C. Board of Education recommended approval yesterday of regulations that would allow the system to implement its newly gained right to lease surplus school building space to agencies, private firms and community groups.
Under the regulations approved by leasing committee members R. David Hall (Ward 2), Eugene Kinlow (At large) and Frank Smith (Ward 1), educational organizations "which provide direct support to the children enrolled and enhance learning experience for children" like public college programs or employment counseling centers would get first preference to use surplus school space.
The proposals will be presented to the entire school board before its regular meeting next Wednesday night. They are based on a new city law enacted last September that allows the school system to lease entire buildings or surplus space in schools that are underused due to low enrollment.
The schools currently have 40,000 surplus seats because of an enrollment decline that has seen the school population drop from 152,000 in 1971 to about 92,000 now. Leasing is seen as a more palatable alternative to massive school closings. "Our success rate in getting agreement on closing schools hasn't been all that high," said Kinlow.
Other proposed guidelines state that empty buildings that are to be leased in their entirety must be projected to remain unneeded for the next 10 years. Leased space in schools where classes would continue must be projected to remain as surplus for at least two years.
The renting of entire buildings would be based on the fair market value of the property. Organizations that would occupy space in operating schools would share the school's operating costs and would have to first gain the acceptance of the adjacent community, the proposed regulations said.