It turns out that even in the absence of Deputy Mayor of Education De'Shawn Wright the Master Facilities Plan Working Group has been on the job meeting to develop a strategic plan for all school buildings, both charter and traditional, for the nation's capital. In fact, perhaps to the surprise of many, the first of three technical memoranda has been issued which will form the foundation for future decisions.
The most interesting part of this extraordinarily detailed 38 page manuscript is that DCPS currently has enough vacant space for 21,000 student seats. That number comprises more than half of the 40,000 high quality seats the Illinois Facility Fund Report concludes we need in order to provide every public school student with an education that would permanently close the achievement gap.
Perhaps most unsettling is that DCPS today has 10 school building sitting vacant that have not been provided to charters. Of course, the facility issue is the most difficult one facing these alternative schools. The lack of space often leads to charters being unable to expand and replicate, and in the past has even resulted in some closing their doors. The problem causes kids to be taught in church basements, storefronts, and warehouses. It also finds these desperate schools paying public funds to extremely expensive private developers.
Most importantly, the search for classrooms is a major distraction which diverts attention away from a concentration on academics.
Recent discussions about facilities have focused on the 15 schools DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson wants to close and hold in her portfolio. This is a crime. But what name do we use to characterize the 10 empty buildings in which excellent teaching could be going on today? Clearly, for many public officials, their job is not about the children.