School Consolidation Could Cause Overcrowding and Turf Wars, Parents Say

Gibbs Students Would Go to Miner and Young in Ward 6

The six residents gathered for a hearing on the proposed closing of Gibbs Elementary School were outnumbered by the 144 seats lining the auditorium at Miner Elementary on 15th Street Northeast.

As the hearing began, the audience could hear the sounds of schoolchildren running the hallways playing in their after-school program. Groups of five or six children skipped past the glass windows of the auditorium, always in the presence of a faculty or staff member.

Three of the hearing attendees gave testimonies on how the proposed closings might impact their families and seemed unmoved by the lack of attendance. They approached the microphone and spoke emotionally of their views on the plan by Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to close 23 schools with declining enrollment to consolidate space and funds.

Brenda Artis, who has two grandchildren at Miner, said that the school could become overcrowded with the influx of students from Gibbs. The mixing of students could also prove to be a severe social problem, Artis added.

“See how many times there has been a police car called to the school, because the children are out of control,” she said. “With both schools in one building, we will have a serious fighting problem.”

Artis also explained that with the zoning of public schools, neighborhood social groups have been against other neighborhood social groups. With the merging of students from different neighborhoods, the problem could potentially worsen. Young Elementary School would also be a receiving school for Gibbs students.

Other parents fear the more immediate impact. “My daughter will have a longer walk … and I’m not comfortable with that,” said Sherri Anna Robinson, who has a kindergartener at Gibbs.

Robinson said the state of the school is another issue. Gibbs looks exactly the same as it did when she was a student there in the 1980s, she claimed. The receiver schools should also be enhanced for the larger number of students, Robinson added. “There should be something extra geared towards the younger students.”

Supporters of the effort argue that it makes sense to move students from one under-enrolled school to another, therefore increasing the enrollment of the receiving school and allowing the system’s limited funds to be divided among fewer schools.