Changing Up Strategic Planning for School Buildings–or Same Old, Same Old?

On Monday July 11, the council’s education committee will hold a hearing on legislation proposed by the committee chair, David Grosso, on amending existing laws governing the master facilities plan for public schools in DC.

The new legislation (called the Planning Actively for Comprehensive Education Facilities act, B21-777) would require a 10-year (not 5-year, as currently) Master Facilities Plan and a 6-year (not 1-year, as currently) DCPS Capital Improvement Plan.

It would also call for a twice yearly (not annual, as currently) supplement to the master facilities plan.

Grosso’s blog notes that the master facilities plan (MFP) “considers the facility planning needs of each local education agency (LEA) in the District of Columbia.”

(Every charter school is its own LEA. DCPS is one (giant) LEA.)

Apparently, the bill punishes LEAs by reducing funding if their data is not submitted in “a timely manner.”

Possibly related:

Months ago, I inquired with staffers of the deputy mayor for education (DME) about a list of so-called excess public school properties. The current MFP (p. 6) notes that a list of these properties would be promulgated by April 1.

I didn’t get a response–but I did find the list, finally, this week. It was put on the DME website quietly on May 16.

Theoretically, this list should have a rationale published as well–that is, any school designated as excess needs to have public documentation that it has no other use by the city. (Still waiting for that for the Gibbs school; after all these years, I expect we won’t get it for this list, either.)

Also related:

Earlier this week, the deputy mayor for education (DME) released a request for offers (RFO) for two closed DCPS school buildings. There was utterly NO fanfare: indeed, but for the appearance of a little tagged link on the homepage of the DME under “Top Projects and Initiatives” with the intriguing  note, “Facilities: Summer 2016 Request for Offer,” I would never have known this had occurred.

That very well may have been the point.

The deadlines for this RFO are quite close: July 11 and August 9, for Keene and PR Harris, respectively. There was no notice in the DC Register for the RFO, although to be fair, the use of these schools for charters was announced with some fanfare in February, with political donors and charter advocates rejoicing.

Hmm: Done deal?

To be sure, the DME held much more recent public meetings about both schools, and what the public might want in a charter school in each locale–neither of which I could find any reference to before the meetings had occurred.

That is, the meeting for Keene, for instance, occurred on May 19; according to the date on the DME website, the notice was posted there on May 23. The meeting for Harris, meanwhile, was also posted on the DME website on May 23, but occurred on May 17.

It’s nice that the council wants to have a longer term view of comprehensive facilities planning in DC with the new legislation.

But between using dubious data for capacity estimates and utilization rates; lack of public notification for new school uses (see above); and lack of disclosure on other possible public uses for closed schools (ditto), it appears that this process is designed to exclude as many people as possible.

And where is the cross sector task force that supposedly has an eye on all of this? Yeah.

(Well, at least complete information for the next meeting of the task force and some subsequent ones is posted here (Tuesday, June 28, 101 Constitution NW, EducationCounsel, Suite 900, 6-8 pm.)

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