Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dismantling school media centers at DC Public Schools

Caption: Hart Middle School received a café-style library after four years of being dismantled. Heart of America, Capitol One bank and Target partnered with the school for the READesign libray makeover. (Photo/Valencia Mohammed, Washington Afro-American).

According to the article, "Heart to Hart: Dismantled Library Gets New Life," from the Washington Afro-American, the decision to have school libraries (which have been called media centers for decades) in DC public schools are made at the school site level.

From the article:

Eighth graders at Hart Middle School in southeast Washington eagerly came into the library, quickly picked a headset, a laptop and sat quietly at a table. The guidance counselor was teaching a class about developing ideas for careers. “I love to do my work in this library,” said 13-year old, Niya Williams. “It’s beautiful.”

Although the entire school recently was renovated, the library has a special meaning with the students – it has very few books. Reading materials are online.
“This library makes me want to come inside, learn, study, and explore every day,” said Chrisdion Alston, another eighth grader.

Four years ago, the students weren’t so fortunate when the former principal at Hart dismantled the library due to budget reductions. Alston, who hopes to attend Banneker Senior High School next year, said for several years he rarely went to a library. Now he is a member of the library advisory committee.

I am shocked that school sites in impoverished areas, where books and other educational media are less likely to be available both at school and at home, would make the decision to not have libraries.

I would believe that this would be an essential, uncuttable, item.

And I can't believe that schools in higher income areas would de-emphasize school media centers even though the students from high income homes are much more likely to have books in the home, and computer/Internet access, because having greater access to educational media of all types in the school enriches opportunities for learning.

In the Capitol Hill area, one of the key parent initiatives for rebuilding the quality of the local schools (see "Neighborhood Schooled: As parents in places like Capitol Hill embrace neighborhood schools, has D.C.'s black middle class given up on them?" from the Washington City Paper) was re-creating and improving the school libraries.

I can't believe that the decision to have a school library is not a central administration decision, and not a decision where the default choice is "yes, absolutely."

Certainly the Title I schools in Arlington and Montgomery County public school systems aren't cutting their libraries now, are they?

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