Wilson High School staff cuts: Two weeks ago, Ward 3 Board of Education representative Ruth Wattenberg reminded us that despite the DC Council’s intentions, funding they restored to the DCPS budget has not found its way to restoring laid-off staff at Wilson High School. The Northwest Current has followed up with Wattenberg and our frustrated Ward 3 Council member. Mary Cheh told the Current, “maybe it’s time” to convert Wilson into a charter school. Why? The Current explains:
District charter schools are funded strictly according to how many students they enroll. This is not the case for public schools, whose funding formula can be far more complex. If Wilson were to become a charter school, Cheh said, its funding would be assured.
The Ward 3-Wilson Feeder Education Network (W3EdNet) sees the Old Hardy School at Reservoir and Foxhall Roads as a potential relief valve, if not a total solution, to the crowding problem. In a letter to Mayor Bowser and the DC Council, its co-chairs ask that a 25-year lease not be renewed with The Lab School, a private school for children with learning challenges. Instead, W3EdNet requests that Hardy be returned to the school system, and suggests that it be reopened as a “stand-alone elementary school, or as a feeder for several schools, either for a single grade or for selective programming.” Here is their August 2nd letter:
Dear Mayor Bowser and Members of the DC Council,
The Ward 3-Wilson Feeder Education Network (W3EdNet), which represents thousands of families from the 15 DCPS schools that feed Wilson High School, urges you not to renew a lease for the Old Hardy School.
Almost all schools in the Wilson High School feeder pattern are at or above capacity. The overcrowding problem is putting stresses on class sizes and common space. For example, Wilson High School reports that over 80 percent of its seniors do not take a full schedule, and could not, because the school does not have space to hold classes. Deal Middle school starts the first of its three lunch periods at 10:40am, and students cram onto benches with little room to move. Eaton Elementary School has built student instruction spaces in stairwell landings. Almost every school reports similar and growing effects of this overcrowding.
Moreover, the DC Office of Planning projects that the number of children aged 3-18 years old in the neighborhoods associated with the feeder pattern will rise over 20 percent by 2025, an increase of around a couple thousand children. Even conservative projections suggest that District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) will need to find substantial additional space to house these children. Given the number of additional children, this needed space will be measured not in added portables at existing sites, but in schools.
As the only surplus DCPS school within the boundaries of the Wilson High School feeder pattern, the Old Hardy School is uniquely placed to alleviate current and projected overcrowding at the lowest cost to the city. The Old Hardy School, though relatively small, could be reopened either as a stand-alone elementary school, or as a feeder for several schools, either for a single grade or for selective programming. If the city signs a 25-year lease with the Lab School, DCPS will likely need to spend substantial sums of money purchasing or renting additional space to satisfy the needs of the growing school-aged population. The opportunity cost of a long-term lease of Old Hardy would thus be at a considerable cost to taxpayers.
Of course, additional space is not all of the solution to overcrowding. We also need to continue to make investments in education all across the city – first and foremost to improve the educational quality of schools for all of our students, but also to provide attractive options other than schools in the western-side of the city.
Thank you again for your continued support of DC school children. The problem of overcrowding in this part of the city is a testimony to the progress that we have made as a city. However, this problem must be addressed to ensure that the quality of the education our children receive will further improve.
The Ward 3-Wilson Feeder Education Network
Cc: Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles
Antwan Wilson, Chancellor, DC Public Schools