School closings can affect kids at Dupont Circle
by Annette Birch
The school system wants to close two schools, noting that there are fewer school-aged kids in the area. But parents are upset, arguing that the schools their kids will be sent to are too full already and more kids may be coming soon.
John W. Ross Elementary School at Dupont Circle, which only has the capacity to hold 250 students and one class per grade, will be one of four elementary schools from Georgetown to Chinatown, if Francis-Stevens Education Campus and Garrison Elementary School are closed.
Melissa Salmonowitz, spokesperson for District of Columbia Public Schools, a government agency under the District of Columbia, did not think that the closings will be a problem for kids in the Dupont Circle area.
“We don’t anticipate any consequences for Ross students, should Francis-Stevens or Garrison be consolidated in the 2013-2014 school year.” On the contrary, closing the schools would, in her opinion, allow money to be spent offering more services to the remaining schools.
Timothy R. Ryan, who lives at Foggy Bottom, just next to the Dupont Circle area, does not agree. He enrolled his 3-year-old son in the pre-school at Francis-Stevens Elementary School instead of a private daycare, because he wanted him close to the community and with kids from different backgrounds.
“It would be horrendous. This is the community school for the Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle area. Ross is already full and there is no other walkable school option. It would have a very big impact on the community,” Ryan said.
Kids would be put in trailers
Kaya Henderson, chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools, proposed on Nov. 13 that 20 public schools, among these Francis-Stevens and Garrison, should be closed, due to fewer families with kids in school age. Both Francis-Stevens and Garrison are under enrolled and over half of the kids are from outside the school district.
However, Lord pointed out that Ross and the two other elementary schools, besides Seaton, where the kids from Francis-Stevens would be send, is already overbooked.
“There are already very few schools in ward two. Ross Elementary School is already oversubscribed, parents within the ward’s boundary cannot get in there.” She also pointed to that according to the chancellor’s own plan population projections indicate that the school-age population from 2015 may grow in the center of the city.
Ann McCloud, president of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at Garrison Elementary School, was also afraid that Seaton Elementary School, where kids within the school district should go to, would not have the capacity to provide a proper education for all kids.
“Because of the capacity of the school, the kids would be put into trailers to provide for temporary classrooms in the school yard,” she predicted.
Ryan knows what he would do if Francis-Stevens is closed.
“I will move if Francis-Stevens closes, even though I have lived here for 20 years. I will not feel comfortable sending my son to a school on the other side of Adams Morgan, where the crime rates are higher,” he said.
Prospects for the future are still uncertain
Bob Meehan, member of the Advisory Neighborhood Board (ANC), a group of elected neighborhood representatives, at Dupont Circle, thinks that the protests will have an impact on the decision to close the schools.
“I don’t think they will close, because there is so much support for these schools from the parents and city council member Jack Evans,” he said.
Lord was not as sure. However, she admitted that there was need for reform, especially with clear cases of under enrollment, but pointed to that the central office at least should have talked with the principals and teachers before they made the proposal and do an assessment of the problems and opportunities of each school.
“I would recommend that we have a community assessment, which goes with every school. It has to be about improving performance for kids and taking into consideration the special needs of the community and each school’s personality,” Lord said.
Meanwhile, the parents in or near the Dupont Circle area will have to wait for the chancellor’s decision, which is expected in January 2013.