a bunch of things it ought to be discussing keep happening during Education Week:
Today, for instance, Mayor Bowser and the Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles announced that several closed DCPS facilities would be turned over to charters.
Just up Alabama Avenue from one of those newly minted charter schools is another DCPS school, Ward 8’s Garfield Elementary, slated to receive a $12 million renovation. While long overdue, Garfield’s renovation is getting 73% less than the amount dedicated to renovating Ward 3’s Hearst Elementary, in similar condition and age.
Also today, schools activist Peter MacPherson detailed the woes of Garfield and other modernization inequities in a letter to the mayor:
“[Garfield’s] main school building is more than a century old, the addition more than a half-century. . . . Its students are among the poorest in the District of Columbia. When the building’s condition was evaluated in 2008, it was found to be in poor or unsatisfactory condition in almost every category examined. Of particular concern to the examiner was the structure, which was deemed to be in unsatisfactory condition. So a poor community, utilizing a structure designed by the first African-American architect given a commission to design a public school in the District of Columbia, is going to begin to have building improvements dribbled in almost 15 years after the start of the current modernization program.”
But, just in time for the lottery, DCPS’s chancellor this week announced that Garfield, along with nine other schools, mainly in wards 7 and 8, would have a longer school year starting next school year.
A press release from DCPS noted that the 10 schools were chosen for a variety of criteria, including “strong leadership in each school, active interest by the community (including students and parents), and student bodies that demonstrate room for growth.” (As opposed, of course, to the schools where the student bodies do not demonstrate room for growth.)
If you are a DCPS parent, you might already have known about this extended year effort through an email today from the chancellor, in which she noted that “we asked for your feedback about extended time at the beginning of this school year, and based on our findings, we are creating more time for focusing on all subjects and extracurriculars, as well as more professional-collaboration time for teachers.”
Forget the actual results of that survey, which appear unavailable: the idea that “focusing on all subjects and extracurriculars” would require more school time is downright strange, when a lack of money to provide a wide variety of subjects in all schools, as well as extracurricular activities, has overwhelmingly been the root cause of not focusing on them.
But the strangeness of this Education Week’s events doesn’t end there.
We are this week being asked to believe nothing less than a miracle: that yet more hours spent inside a decrepit building like Garfield (not to mention the possible contract violations those longer hours pose) are what a “pathway to the middle class” is made of, in the words of the mayor.
Well, the cross-sector task force certainly has its work cut out whenever it meets–if it meets, since it hasn’t yet met months after its formation, had a cancelled and unrescheduled first meeting, and has its first real meeting on the same night as another event it is supposed to run (February 23–your choice: Eastern HS for a focus group or MLK library for the task force itself).