Talk of School Closings Disturbs Peace at Brookland

Students Would Join Peers at Bunker Hill

Special community meeting chairman John Davis, along with D.C. Public Schools improvement specialist Annette Gregory, sat below a banner reading “Brookland is a peaceable school.” The calm promoted at Brookland Elementary School was altered when Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced a proposal to close 23 D.C. schools, with the goal of introducing innovative programs that will raise academic success. This hearing was a chance to get community input and opinion.

Under the proposal, Brookland and Bunker Hill elementary would combine students at the Bunker Hill site, and later Brookland would serve as the ultimate consolidation site.

“What kind of confidence can we have in what you’re saying for the modification of this school, that they will be coming back to this location? I really don’t have that kind of confidence,” said Barbara Nipper, a PTA representative and Ward 5 resident. “I believe that once this school is closed and they move somewhere, you will change your mind and decide to accomplish something else. You have another agenda.”

Wintry weather caused more empty seats than expected at the meeting, but parents remained warm with opinions. “I think that the school system sucks,” declared Kimberly Myers, an alumna of Brookland and parent of a current student. “I am a true supporter of Brookland and all that they do, but overall I think that the school system needs to be revamped, and there are programs that need to be added.”

“I think we need to come out in mass number and show our support for our school and what we want, and we can’t do that if we’re in silence,” Myers said.

Myers commended Rhee, agreeing that foreign language and physical education programs should be added, but still questioned the transition.

“I’m not sure what is going to happen,” she said. “I don’t know how my child’s first day is going to be. I’d like to know what that entails. I would also like to get some kind of plan over the summer … so I know what I’m walking into for my child.”

Several teachers assembled in the back of the room, and parents were very complimentary of their services. People testified that Brookland lives up to the motto on a painted mural of six children entitled “Our School’s a Great Place to Learn.”

“We have great teachers here, and I’d like to see them actually move to Bunker Hill,” Myers said. Rhonda White, a parent of two children attending Brookland, believes “It is an atmosphere and place that you just can’t take and transition necessarily, and try to mesh things together.”

Complete outrage of the proposed move was not evident, but parents requested further clarification. “We’re being told to move, but we haven’t really been told how it’s going to transition back,” White said.

Myers noted that Rhee “often comments on ‘if it’s not for the children, then it shouldn’t be done.’ If moving them to Bunker Hill, if that area, if the school building, if the resources are not adequate to Brookland, then don’t move them.”