ON MOST tests, a correct score of seven out of 10 warrants scant praise. But not in this case. The subject matter here happens to be public school closings in the District of Columbia. A panel of civic leaders -- the Committee on Public Education -- has recommended that the D.C. Board of Education close 10 schools in order to save millions of dollars each year. On Thursday the school board voted to close seven schools. That represents a big improvement over earlier performances. Past school boards had never earned more than an "F" on this subject.
Bryan, Giddings and Carver elementary schools and Hamilton Junior High school will close this summer. Langston and Petworth elementaries will shut down in 1991, and Garnet-Patterson Junior High will close in 1992.
Even though public school enrollment plunged during the past decade, down to 81,300 students, previous school boards lacked the courage to close an appropriate number of schools or simply avoided the issue altogether. In 1982, for example, when the school system had 10,000 more students than it has now, Superintendent Floretta McKenzie recommended more than 12 closings. The board buckled under community pressure and closed just two.
This year the need to close schools was even greater. Building capacity exceeded actual enrollment by some 37,750 student slots. Moreover, the extreme age of most D.C. school buildings meant that many schools were in poor condition and were too expensive to repair.
But the school board and Superintendent Andrew Jenkins have more work to do. The task now is to make future school closings more palatable to other communities by ensuring that consolidations produce successful schools that better serve the students who have to be moved. A recent report by the Greater Washington Research Council predicts that the city's population will continue to shrink throughout the 1990s. Mr. Jenkins and the school board have done well on this test, but others will surely follow.