Parent Groups Worked to Keep Open Garrison, Francis-Stevens
After countless efforts from PTA members and community leaders, Garrison Elementary School and Francis-Stevens Education Campus are no longer slated for closure.
Chancellor Kaya Henderson proposed last November that 20 D.C. public schools be closed for the school year that begins in September 2013. She said that the selected schools were under-enrolled and that their buildings could be used for other community advancements such as parking structures and community art centers. Henderson said that this was not a plan, but a proposal and that she would be open to hearing alternative proposals from parents and school officials.
Henderson made it clear that her mind would not be changed easily during a meeting at Brightwood Elementary.
“Don’t come to me with 500 people saying, ‘Don’t close my school,’ ” Henderson said. “Come to me with 500 enrollment forms.”
Francis-Stevens Education Campus and Garrison Elementary School, both located in Ward 2, have put forth strong efforts for their schools to remain open to avoid reducing public education options in Ward 2. In many cases, students who could walk to campus would have to find alternative transportation
“It doesn’t make since for Garrison and Francis-Stevens to close because most of the schools in Ward 2 are filled to capacity,” said Jackson Carnes, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for Foggy Bottom West End.
Other reasons for not wanting their schools to close include the community that has already been built around the schools and the increase of students.
“My son has been [at Garrison] for three years and we have built a strong community engagement,” said Ann McLeod, president of Garrison Elementary School PTA. “Also, our enrollment has been increasing over the years.”
Garrison’s PTA created an online petition, on change.org, for parents to build an alternative proposal. The end result was a 46-slide PowerPoint presentation accompanied by a four-page plan outlining investments they’d like to see from the school system and commitments they will make in return.
While Garrison’s PTA took a digital approach, the PTA of Francis-Stevens Education Campus made brochures and set up booths at local grocery stores to recruit new students.
Both schools will now remain open. Garrison Elementary School will remain in its same location, 1200 S St. NW, and Francis-Stevens Education Campus, located at 2425 N St. NW, will merge with The School Without Walls, located one mile away at 2130 G St. NW. Francis-Stevens Education Campus is a Pre-K to 8 school, while The School Without Walls is a high school. To compensate for under enrolment, 9th grade students from The School Without Walls will take some of their classes at Francis-Stevens Education Campus.
Other schools that will no longer be closing include Smothers Elementary School (Ward 7), Johnson Middle School (Ward 8) and Malcolm X Elementary School (Ward 8). Last month, parents and activists filed a lawsuit to stop the closure of the remaining 15 schools set to close. Their argument is that the closing of these schools violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Human Rights Act. A hearing will be held at the federal court on May 10.