Recap of Dec 5 School Consolidation Meeting‏ – by Joe Weedon

by Joe Weedon, Maury ES Superparent

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Greetings –

I wanted to provide everyone with a quick recap of last night’s meeting with Chancellor Henderson about DCPS’s proposal to close/consolidate schools across the District.

Last night’s gathering brought together a standing room only group of parents, teachers and students from Wards 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. The discussion followed the lines of the other forums held last week in Wards 5, 7 and 8. The Chancellor gave brief opening remarks and then small group discussions began. There were DCPS employees taking notes from each small group that will be compiled and presented to the Chancellor. The Chancellor also made her way around the room to observe and listen in on the small group conversations. The groups did report out at the end of the meeting.

The main messages coming from the crowd largely revolved around saving individual schools, questions about why different schools were included and requests for information from DCPS on what their plan is to facilitate the consolidations – ie, will teachers be offered jobs, will there be busing, will there be extra staff to aid in the consolidation. At the end of the day, I believe the consensus was that DCPS is moving too fast. Additionally, there is strong sentiment that DCPS needs to provide more clear information about the criteria for selecting schools, the projected cost savings, and a strategy for reinvesting the funds. Additionally, questions were raised about why the closing/consolidation process is being conducted separately from the redrawing of boundaries (which is expected to take place next year). A final point was a great concern that DCPS and the Public Charters are operating independently without any coordination… the public charters plan to open several new schools this fall raising the question of whether or not DCPS should close more schools or whether a moratorium should be placed on additional openings/closings until there is a central vision and plan for our school system.

Specifically for Ward 6…. It was disappointing to be included with residents from Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6. While the chancellor said she was looking for new ideas and outside the box thinking, the size of the meeting and the limited focus on issues directly impacting us in Ward 6 prevented this. Overall, the representatives from Eastern HS did a great job of expressing concerns about the movement of Spingarm students into their school, though it may have been lost in the overall chaos of the evening. I mis-spoke earlier in the week, one Ward 6 school – Prospect Early Learning Center – is slated to be closed; however, it was not brought up last night and it appears there is limited concern about integrating students from Prospect into their community schools.

The path forward…

We need to ensure that Eastern HS is supported fully in the integration of any new students. Eastern’s culture and curriculum are significantly different from that at Spingarm. Long-term, the inclusion of new feeder schools into Eastern is also significantly problematic. Eastern’s ideal capacity is approximately 1100-1200 (I over estimated based on outdated documents in my note earlier this week). That means they expect to have approximately 250 – 300 freshman each year. With nearly 500 3rd graders already in the Eastern feeder pattern, we cannot sustain a school where more individual students have a ‘right’ to attend.

Visit this link – http://www.engagedcps.org/ – to urge DCPS to slow the process, to ensure that feeder pattern realignment is done in conjunction with school closings.

Thanks for your support of our schools.

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For Tweets from the same meeting, see the CHPSPO Storify.

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