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D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson Expected To Release List Of Schools Targeted For Closure

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A list of D.C. Public Schools targeted for closure or consolidation is expected to be announced Tuesday by Chancellor Kaya Henderson, the Washington Post reports. According to D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Henderson has indicated she will be singling out underpopulated schools.

“I know there are some schools that are grossly under-enrolled,” Mendelson told the Washington Post. “It’s hard to justify keeping those schools open. … If you want librarians and art teachers in every school, you have to have a population sufficient to pay for it.” 

The Washington Informer reports that the majority of the city’s under-performing and under-enrolled schools are located in wards 5, 7 and 8. If the district goes ahead with recommendations made by the Chicago-based Illinois Facility Fund earlier this year, lower-performing city schools will likely be consolidated with high-performing charter schools.

Last week, a list of 38 purported DCPS closures was emailed to neighborhood listserves by Ward 5 activist and former advisory neighborhood commissioner Debbie Smith-Steiner, who said she received it from an employee of the school system, the Post reports. But district officials say the document is inaccurate and they didn’t produce it.

“We have no idea where this list came from, but it’s not from DCPS,” school system spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz wrote in an e-mail to the Post’s “D.C. Schools Insider” blog.

According to the blog, several of the schools listed for closure were borderline unbelievable, given the amount of money the city has invested in them in recent years.

Four years ago, former DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee made waves when she ordered the closing of 23 schools — an endeavor that ended up costing the city about $40 million, reports D.C. Schools Insider. The same parents and community leaders who protested the controversial move in 2008 are anticipating airing their grievances regarding this latest round of proposed closures at two public hearings scheduled for Nov. 15 and 19.

The D.C. Council expects to schedule at least 50 witnesses for each hearing, and the deadline for signing up to testify is Nov. 13, according to the Informer.

In an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, columnist Jonetta Rose Barras writes that Empower DC and other advocates have started training parents in preparation for their testimonies at the council’s hearings, vowing to do whatever is necessary to stop the closures — including going to court.

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