As it works its way toward modernizing all its schools (many remain untouched), DCPS will soon be making two changes to the modernization process: running all school improvement teams (SITs) itself and changing the educational specifications (ed specs) that are used as the basis for determining what spaces schools should have and the size and configuration of them.
Right now, DGS, the city agency in charge of all DCPS modernizations, runs SITs, which are bodies of parents, teachers, administrators, and community members who oversee each school’s modernization, from planning to punchlists.
DCPS will be taking over the SIT process sometime in October. As Patrick Davis, DCPS’s coordinator for facilities initiatives, notes, “DGS will still be active in the modernization and SIT process, but DCPS will be responsible for day-to-day SIT functions. To ensure that the transfer is smooth, we have been working closely with DGS. Because not all of the projects are at the same point in the process, we are reviewing each on a case-by-case basis to determine how and if the new process will be implemented.”
Currently, DGS has guidelines for how SITs are formed, run, and what their powers are. DCPS is looking to revise those guidelines as a starting point. Davis noted, “We hope to share the SIT process recommendations this month for public review.”
He explained that includes how often SITs meet and how they review projects. The idea, he notes, is to have a “high-level” process for SITs outlined, then get public feedback before official implementation of DCPS control by the end of October.
Currently, who is on a SIT, how they function, and what their authority is varies widely across school modernizations in the city. The 21st Century School Fund is offering DCPS recommendations collected from discussions with current and former SIT participants around the city (including this writer), so DCPS may better understand community involvement in SITs and how they may be most effective.
DCPS is also looking to revise its ed specs., and Davis promises that “this process will include opportunities for public review in the coming months.”
He noted that this move is merely a “refresh” of standards. DCPS is planning to consult “subject matter experts” within DCPS to determine best practices. When asked about using outside authorities as well—for instance, the American Library Association has guidelines for school library design–Davis replied that they have just started revising the ed specs. and that DCPS “will have prototypes as a starting point for site-specific work” (i.e., what an elementary should have, what a middle school should have, etc.). For projects currently underway, Davis noted that DCPS will decide whether to use the new ed specs. on a case by case basis.