Schools, "sustainability" and capital improvements #2: Coolidge High School, and a need for a middle school to feed it
Tonight the Ward 4 Education Alliance is meeting with Jenny Niles, Deputy Mayor for Education to discuss how to strengthen DCPS options in Ward 4.
Date: Wed. March 18
Time: 6-8PMPlace: Takoma Education Campus 7010 Piney Branch Road.
Recently, I wrote ("DC high school that wasn't needed and built at a cost of $122 million wins sustainability award") about Dunbar High School winning awards for sustainability elements, countering that spending $120 million to construct an unneeded school was unsustainable by definition.
Separately but surprisingly, the school system chancellor said that the current capital improvement and budgeting system for the schools is flawed ("D.C. schools chancellor recommends overhaul of capital planning process," Post).
Public schools failure to plan #2: selling off public schools to charters means that in some areas DCPS lacks room to grow--will the park behind Coolidge High School be destroyed for a new middle school?") about proposals to build a middle school in the Takoma area of the city on existing park land.
The reason the area doesn't have a middle school is that the original middle school in the area, Paul Junior High, was converted to a charter school 14 years ago and has an enrollment of 675 students, which is significantly higher than Coolidge, where the enrollment is around 500 students.
Another school, Rabaut Junior High, closed long ago--after some unsuccessful charter school iterations, now the building is used by a thriving charter school.
As much as I point out that most of DC's high schools are extremely under-enrolled, the problem derives from an inadequate "feeder school chain" comprised of an adequate number of successful elementary and middle schools. (Plus, unfettered competition from charter schools.)
It's unlikely that enrollment in DC's traditional high schools will be generated by charter schools, so if there isn't a strong public school feeder system, especially a strong middle school, the high schools will remain under-enrolled.
The Ward 4 Education Alliance has backed off their earlier suggestion to use park land for a new school. Instead, they are pointing out that the $120 million budgeted for renovation of Coolidge High School could be used to both renovate Coolidge High School and to simultaneously create a middle school within the CHS footprint by reconfiguring space.
The concept calls for an 800 student high school and a 400 student middle school. (The Ward will also be served by a revived McFarland Middle School, primarily serving Roosevelt High School which itself is being renovated currently.)
So far the current administration hasn't signed off on this concept, and continues to plan to spend all the money on renovating Coolidge. So it should be an interesting meeting.