DCPS has been closing down some schools because the system has fewer students than it used to. That’s smart. And they’re now seeking private sector proposals to redevelop them. In many cases that’s smart. The former Hine Junior High School on the Hill is, for example, sitting on an incredibly valuable parcel of land in a transit-accessible location in one of the city’s most walkable neighborhoods. I would love to see something high-density go there, but it’s a pretty NIMBY community and presumably only something relatively small scale could get in. Still, that’d be all to the good.
But that’s not the case for all of these sites. And while the DCPS student population has been falling, the charter school population has been growing. So surely The Washington Post is right to say that the city ought to open many of these facilities up to proposals from charter schools. But for unclear reasons, they aren’t.
DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has become a darling of the press and the education reform world for her proposed changes to DCPS teacher compensation schemes. But she’s seemed notably uninterested in aspects of the education issue that aren’t so closely identified with, well, her. Like, for example, the world of public charter schools. but charters have been doing a lot of good for DC. And one big problem charter schools have all across the country is getting physical space. Since DC actually has a bunch of vacant ex-school buildings, we have at our disposal the elegant solution of turning many of them into . . . schools.