Call Tomorrow for At Risk Issues and School Facilities

Tomorrow, Friday April 14, two new working groups of the cross sector task force will be meeting via phone to discuss at risk issues and school facilities. You can call in to hear the hour-long discussions (but not participate):

At risk issues working group: 11 am
Facilities working group: 12:30 pm

Conference call number: 515-604-9300
Access Code: 821824
Online Meeting Link:
Online Meeting ID: dme_dcgov

(Calendar information for both is available here and here.)

Both the at risk and facilities’ working groups met a few weeks ago in March–notes from that meeting are here for facilities and here for at risk issues.

Issues surrounding facilities are center stage. The deputy mayor for education (DME)–who runs the cross sector task force–recently reported to the council (p. 27 of the DME response to oversight questions, available here) that as part of the 10-year master facilities plan process, the mayor had five goals:

“1. Create a prioritization for the 35 DCPS schools that have only received a Phase I modernization and have a clear plan for the six DCPS schools completely untouched by the CIP as well as those eight DCPS schools will have planning efforts started;
2. Develop plans for vacant and underutilized DCPS facilities;
3. Include Facility Condition Assessments about the public charter schools, not just DCPS facilities, as well as recommend additional supports for charter schools in obtaining, developing, and maintaining facilities;
4. Integrate the Cross Sector Collaboration Task Force’s recommendations of a common process for DCPS and PCSB/public charters to coordinate the opening, closing, and locating of school facilities; and
5. Anticipate the need for educational seats in the future.”

Disturbingly (or interestingly, if you like your urban planning and tax dollars edgy), according to the DME’s own report on closed DCPS schools, there are only seven vacant and unused DCPS schools (at least one of which appears to be in awful condition).

So the desire as outlined here, to develop “plans” for those facilities, is coupled to developing “plans” for “underutilized” DCPS facilities.

But the capacity assessment for determining underuse of DCPS facilities is not clearly (or at all) connected to current programmatic offerings or enrollments. That is, on the DME’s fact sheets, there is no date for programmatic capacity estimates for DCPS–but there is a current date for charter estimates. Those DCPS estimates are done by DGS, without any evidence to show that renovations and programming changes are taken into consideration.

But, as we have seen, capacity and other facility assessments for charter schools are completely self-assessed, which actually violates the law. Perhaps more alarming, the term “programmatic capacity” does not appear to have been defined.

The take-home? The new DCPS chancellor better dig deep if he’s going to hold on to DCPS real estate. As the DME’s report on closed DCPS schools makes clear, 41% of DCPS schools have closed since 1997.

Charter schools started here in 1996.

For anyone who thinks these two statements are unrelated, think again:

The DME’s citywide fact sheet, for instance, shows that Ward 5 has the greatest imbalance of charters and charter students versus DCPS students and schools. The other fact sheets for that same ward show that it also has the most underused DCPS and charter elementary and middle schools.

Yet, even though this clearly shows that such charter school saturation and lack of planning as Ward 5 has experienced ensures underenrollment in all schools–and thus ensures closures of DCPS schools–expect no public acknowledgement of that fact.

Rather, expect more of this, which was presented to the cross sector task force at its last meeting, on March 28 (from page 13 of this slide deck presented to the facilities working group):

“As we transition to a common accountability system, we will be better able to explicitly link utilization with school performance.”

Say whaaaaaaa: “Common accountability system”?? “Linking utilization with school performance”??

(Oh, speaking of (lack of) planning: did I mention that the charter board will be voting on April 24 on adding almost 4000 new seats to DC’s already undersubscribed available public school seats?)

For sure, it’s truly an exciting time to be in public education in DC–just as it is for the presidency!

(Having fun yet?)

I hope to analyze more about the working group materials for the at risk discussion–once I get them, as they do not appear to be posted on the DME’s website for the cross task force (scroll down to see what is posted).

BTW, the next meeting of the task force, which may include a meeting of both working groups, will be Tuesday April 25, at 6 pm, at EducationCounsel, 101 Constitution Ave, NW, Suite 900.

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