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.

Friday, January 03, 2014

DC high schools: capacity versus enrollment

I have lamented in previous entries that the city is wasting a lot of money by not making hard decisions about the number of high schools to operate, and will spend as much as $1 Billion all told in completely rebuilding schools (like H.D. Woodson, Ballou, Dunbar) and renovating the others.

Except for a couple of the schools, all have enrollments of fewer than 600 students.

Today I was reading the "Open Spaces and Community Facilities" element of the 1950 DC Comprehensive Land Use Plan, and it stated that the city's high schools were built to have a capacity of 1,500+ students.  Today, only one of the high schools, Wilson, in Upper Northwest, has that many students.

For example, in Ward 4, we have two high schools, Roosevelt and Coolidge, each with fewer than 600 students, and major momentum to renovate both schools.

1.  Instead, I have suggested that the old Western High School in Georgetown, now the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, serving the entire city, and not easily accessible by Metrorail, could be moved to either Roosevelt or Coolidge--both are served by Metrorail, Coolidge by the Red Line, Roosevelt by the Green Line.

This would allow Western to be returned to use as a in-boundary high school--Wilson is the only high school with an enrollment significantly over current capacity, something like 1,800 students.

2.  And it would allow Ward 4 to offer one single comprehensive high school with a full range of programs, rather than two high schools unable to offer a full range of programs, due to inadequate enrollments.

-- The Comprehensive High School in American Education, Educational Leadership
-- The Comprehensive High School Today (book)

3.  Similarly, DC just rebuilt Dunbar High School at a cost of almost $130 million.  Instead the school should have been closed and the students redistributed to other under-enrolled high schools like Cardozo, McKinley, and Eastern.

That $130 million could have been used to subsidize a soccer stadium (not saying that's my priority) instead of the city going through all kinds of machinations to bring this about ("Gray officials propose forgoing taxes for DC United stadium," Washington Post).

Probably Ballou (rendering at left) doesn't need to be rebuilt either, and its students could have been redistributed to other area high schools, and in turn strengthening those schools.   Although it has a hip design.

4.  Wasting money does have consequences and opportunity costs.

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