05/22/2013 11:27 am ET

Washington, D.C., Makes 16 Closed Public Schools Available For Charter School Space


Washington, D.C., charter school advocates experienced a big win Monday, when Mayor Vincent Gray (D) announced that charter and community organizations would soon be able to use the space in 16 former public schools.

Within the next few months, public charter schools will be able to enter into long-term leases on the buildings of 12 public schools that are set to close by next year, reports The Washington Post. Four other school buildings will be available for short-term lease by charter or community organizations, according to the outlet.

Charter schools and community organizations that apply for space will be chosen based on their financial capacity to “renovate, operate and maintain a facility,” according to a city press release.

Demand for seats in Washington charter schools has been increasing. The Washington Inquirer reports that "roughly 22,000 students were on public charter waitlists this year" -- 7,000 students higher than last year.

Information about how charter school operators can apply for public school space can be found on a recently launched city website. Gray said in a statement that the website will make more transparent the process by which schools are awarded public space.

“The launch of this website is a great first step to keeping public properties active and serving community needs,” said Gray. “My administration has provided school space for a number of public charter schools, and this process reflects my commitment to helping more public charter schools gain access to appropriate space for their programs.”

The Washington Post reports that, while Robert Cane, executive director of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools, said he was “pleased” with the announcement, radio host Virginia Spatz found the news “worrisome.”

We will become a full charter system without ever having had any conversation about that,” said Spatz, per the Post.

The news came just one day before the D.C. Public Charter School Board approved the applications of two new schools, which will open in 2014.



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