W6PSPO Meets Tuesday, December 15 @ 7pm

Dear Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization members,

I hope everyone is safe and healthy.  The W6PSPO will have a virtual meeting on Tuesday, December 15, at 7 pm (please contact me for Zoom info).  Our agenda is:

1.  David Whitehead with the DC Education Coalition for Change (DECC) will discuss the #KeepTheEd Committee petition DECC is circulating to encourage Council Chairman Phil Mendelson to keep the Education Committee, and not dissolve it and move its functions under the Committee of the Whole.

2.  Betsy Wolf (Amidon-Bowen) and Jean Kohanek (Maury) will discuss the Reopen Community Corps planning for reopening their schools in Term 3.  There will be an opportunity for all schools to share what they currently know about the planning for Term 3.

I hope you’ll be able to join us on December 15.  Below is the information to join the meeting.

Suzanne Wells

Meshaun Pratt – DC Council – Public Roundtable on DCPS Return to In-Person Instruction – Dec 2, 2020

Testimony to the Committee of the Whole & Committee on Education 
Public Oversight Roundtable  on 
Return to In-person Instruction in DC Public Schools
Meshaun Pratt
YWP Youth Advocate

Greetings Councilmembers. My name is Meshaun Pratt and I am a senior at School Without Walls. I am a Ward 8 resident and I plan to pursue a career in Nursing. I am also a Youth Advocate with the Young Women’s Project (YWP). YWP is a DC nonprofit that builds the leadership and power of young people so that they can transform DC institutions to expand rights and opportunities for DC youth. I am here today to share my experiences with distance learning and my thoughts on the reopening of schools. Thank you for the opportunity to share my experiences and thoughts today.

When distance learning was first put into action and made the mandatory way for school, my mother’s first thought was having stable access to the internet to ensure I would be able to get online. Fortunately, I am blessed enough to have a working computer, printer, and scanner at home already. However, because of where I live and the type of internet we can afford, this was the only challenge I had to face. The internet constantly would stop working (it’s worse when it rains) and would take forever for it to work again. Because of this, we have to use the hotspots on our phones that increases my mother’s bill. It is really a game of Russian roulette every day I get online for school.

I feel as though learning online has its advantages along with its disadvantages. For one, we do not have to get up as early as we used to! Plus, it’s less paper and in-hand materials to keep up with which can sometimes be stressful when unorganized. But, distance learning also poses a few difficulties too. This is my first year at School Without Walls and I have entered as a senior, which is not easy or common. Mostly all my classmates knows each other so being “the new kid” has been difficult but nothing that I can’t handle.

One thing I personally love about my school is that they are extremely communicative. They send out weekly emails about news, mental health checks, and still incorporate different clubs despite the pandemic. They are big on “demanding your education” which means to advocate for yourself when you need help. Some teachers check in with us and make sure we see our grades or what assignments we need to turn in. All of this positive communication keeps me up to speed on what’s happening in my school.

When it comes to the decision of whether or when we should return to school there is a lot to consider. Right now I oppose having us return to the classroom this year.  I first heard about the decision on DCPS’ twitter page and it automatically raised some concerns for me. I understand that schools want to be considerate of families with young children but these kids are still prone to the virus. Having those children all around each other especially when they don’t understand the depth of this virus as much as others I feel is risky. Schools can have procedures and rules such as requiring masks and having students stay six feet apart but in all reality we know that will probably not happen because it isn’t how students think. Kids have been taught to share and make new friends, and it is natural and common for them to want to hug and share things because of that developmental stage of life they are in. They may not keep their masks on or come home with someone else’s on. Children, especially Pre-K – 2nd, like to play games and really interact with other kids their age. Even for middle and high school students who can understand the severity of the virus are still at risk.

One major concern for me are the bathrooms. Schools struggle with keeping them clean on a normal day and I think it will be hard to keep them sanitized. They must be cleaned after each person goes in and who’s to say more than one child will go in at a time? You can clean/sanitize the space but some of the germs can still cohabitate in the area.   

Then there is transportation to think of! Most children take the bus and train to school everyday. You add the children, people who work in school, and others who already are taking public transportation for their jobs, and this poses a serious risk of exposure. Everyone is touching rails, poles, chairs, etc. Are we supposed to wear gloves? How do we maintain 6 feet on a train full of kids trying to get to school and adults getting to work? Why go through all of this risk? What will we do about schools that have 500+ students and are normally supposed to seat 20-25 students in each class? How do we “stay safe” and prevent exposure when we are putting ourselves at risk around 500+ people every weekday? And who’s to say that these elementary kids can go to school without that risk of being exposed, and coming home and exposing their family?

Instead of rushing to get students back to in person classes schools should make sure that all students and families have the support that they need to thrive in virtual learning. Examples include making sure that students have quality computers, providing small (possibly) in-person tutoring for students who are struggling and also abolish some student expenses, especially for seniors.

Thank you for allowing me to testify and share my thoughts.  Have a nice day!

LaJoy Johnson-Law – DC Council – Public Roundtable on DCPS Return to In-Person Instruction – Dec 2, 2020

TESTIMONY for Joint Committee of the Whole and Committee on Education-Distance Learning
LaJoy Johnson-Law,
Ward 8 parent and disability and education advocate-12/2/20

Good Morning Chairman Mendelson, Councilmember Grosso and the Committee on Education. My name is LaJoy Johnson-Law (Ms. Law), and I am a concerned Ward 8 Resident, education and disability advocate, but most importantly, I am Abria’s mom. I am here to share the voices of my community and families that are unfortunately not able to be here today. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Ward 8 and our east of the river community deserves to be heard and not pushed to the side. Many families are concerned about sending their children back to school and how we have implemented the attempt to reopen school. Many families do not feel it is safe to go back to school right now with a rise in COVID cases. So today, we call on the Council to acknowledge and implement the following:

Re-Opening Asks:

  1. We call on the council to mandate a collaborative safety plan to both DCPS, Charters and Early Childhood Centers in regards to physically reopening ALL schools and their hybrid plans. What if a family that has children that are in both sectors and someone in their household contracts COVID19 and now everyone in that household is at risk and the children are in different schools, does everyone in the household and the respective schools have to shut down to quarantine? There are so many multiple factors but everyone needs to be on the same page: Mandate cross sector collaboration—there needs to be a united health response to reopening schools for the safety of everyone.
  2. We call on Council to provide oversight into DCPS’s communication plans with families and teachers. Many families have been concerned about not receiving adequate and timely information in regards to the reopening plans or being told they must send their children back when it is the family’s decision for a child to return to school.
  3. We call on the Council’s Committee on Education to establish a new community, family, teacher, school and student led Reopen Education advisory committee to collaborate with the executive branch on the reopening of schools to ensure decisions are being made with all stakeholders.
  4. We also call on Council to mandate a new online distance learning plan standard—schools, families and teachers should have the option to continue public education learning in a distance learning setting. There are many families that are having great online experiences and should be able to continue this method of learning in the future.
  5. We also call on Council to look into other Innovative approaches to learning such as outdoor learning. There have been studies and other jurisdictions around the country that have adopted this approach to keep students engaged.
  6. Lastly, we call on the council to invest in emergency mental health resources now and when children return back to school to properly address the trauma happening due to the pandemic. If we can invest 10 million dollars in helping businesses, then we can invest in our children’s mental and emotional well-being.

We understand that this is a tough time for everyone and this is an unprecedented pandemic and no one has a roadmap but we must ensure that we are making decisions with all of our stakeholders which include schools, teachers, families and students. This public health emergency has only shown us the deep inequities that we have in our school system, inequities that we should all be ashamed of allowing to go on for so long and we should all be committed to improving these inequities immediately. DC cannot continue to allow any more inequities in our education system. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER! Thank you,

LaJoy Johnson-Law (Ms. Law)

Suzanne Wells Testimony – DC Council – Public Roundtable on DCPS Return to In-Person Instruction – Dec 2, 2020

Committee of the Whole
Committee on Education
Joint Oversight Roundtable on Return to In-person Instruction in DC Public Schools
December 2, 2020

My name is Suzanne Wells.  I am the president of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization. 

I think it is fair to say we all want teachers and students to be back in school.  Students have experienced learning losses; on-line teaching particularly in the younger grades, for students with special education needs and English Language Learners is especially challenging; parents who are fortunate to have jobs are stretched thin juggling child care and work; and many families find themselves just struggling to survive.

But the coronavirus is keeping us from having what we want.  This past Saturday, the District reported more new coronavirus cases in a single day than any day since the start of this global pandemic.  The DC Council is working from home and holding on-line hearings because it is not deemed safe to be in the Wilson building.  Dr. Fauci has told us to “hang in there a bit longer” until vaccines become available.  It seems to me that no matter how difficult this time is, we want to protect the lives of as many people as possible.  It is unfathomable that over a quarter of a million people have died in the past eight months from covid-19, and we don’t want opening schools to result in additional deaths.

We’ve been resilient these past eight months, and that resilience combined with determination and hope has given us an opportunity to do things differently, and in some cases do things better.  There are some things that are working well that should be encouraged:

  1. Some promising “Learning Hubs” have been started at public housing units.  GOODProjects is running a Learning Hub at the Greenleaf Garden Apartments, and Little Lights is running Learning Hubs at Potomac Gardens, Hopkins, and Benning Terrace public housing units.  These learning hubs are operating similar to CARES classrooms where students are getting help with their on-line instruction.  Students don’t have to travel far to these learning hubs, and risk coming in contact with the coronavirus.  These are the exact students we fear are suffering significant learning losses.  I strongly encourage DCPS and the City to see if there are additional opportunities to start learning hubs at homeless shelters and other public housing units.
  2. Facilitating as many outdoor learning opportunities as possible.  Many of the Student Support Centers that principals and their school communities had planned to begin in October supported learning outdoors while minimizing the risk of contracting covid-19.  DCPS should be encouraging as many of these outdoor opportunities as possible.
  3. Strengthening online learning, and plan now for computer acquisitions needed for next school year.  Our organization is firmly behind all of the recommendations made by Digital Equity in DC Education.

In closing, one thing that DCPS has not done well is collaboratively planning with principals, teachers, students, parents, and community based organizations.  The top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to planning simply haven’t worked.  DCPS needs to genuinely involve their key stakeholders in any effort to return to in-person learning. 

Testimony of Grace Hu – DC Council – Public Roundtable on DCPS Return to In-Person Instruction – Dec 2, 2020

Grace Hu
Amidon-Bowen Elementary Local School Advisory Team
Council Oversight Roundtable on DCPS

December 2, 2020

Good afternoon. My name is Grace Hu and I am a parent at Amidon-Bowen Elementary, where I serve on the LSAT. I am also one of the parent leads for the Digital Equity in DC Education coalition and part of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization. As you engage with DCPS and the Bowser Administration on the reopening of schools, I urge you to consider these questions.

  1. How will DCPS maintain high quality in-school instruction and high-quality distance learning at the same time? Much of the current debate has been framed in a binary construct – students returning or not returning to school. In reality, there will be some period of time next calendar year in which schools will have to support both virtual learning and in-person instruction at the same time, as some families (like mine) are not willing to send their children back to school.

    DCPS’ original return-to-in-person plan for >20k elementary school students would have resulted in larger class sizes and reassigning of teachers for those who remained in distance learning, resulting in disruptions to learning and student-teacher relationships. Additionally, teachers and school staff have spent significant time helping families with tech support, navigating online learning platforms, and troubleshooting other distance learning issues. What will happen when these school staff now have to split their focus between in-school and at-home learning environments? I urge you to focus on quality of instruction and the impact of DCPS decisions on quality instruction for both at-home and in-school learners.
  2. Does DCPS have the technology infrastructure to switch back and forth seamlessly between school and home learning? We’ve seen other school districts reopen schools only to return to distance learning due to COVID spikes. DCPS likely will have to do the same. Does the school system have adequate devices, tech and curriculum supports to pivot back and forth between school and home learning environments? We have not seen the data that shows they do.
  3. What planning and procurements does DCPS need to start soon to position itself for success for next school year? The beginning of this school year was chaotic. At some schools, there was confusion over who qualified as needing a device, and some devices and hotspots were not delivered until after school started. Teachers were not guaranteed devices to use for instruction and complained that they were not given adequate time to familiarize themselves with learning platforms. You dropped the ball on providing the oversight to ensure that we would be ready for the school year. So this time around, please do better, starting with asking DCPS now what its longer term plan for providing technology other supports is. Charters like KIPP are already looking at procuring technology to avoid global supply chain issues.

Lastly, I have been appalled by the lack of respect shown to our teachers and one of my greatest fears is that our best teachers will leave DCPS after this school year. Losing staff at Amidon-Bowen Elementary and other schools that serve high-need populations will not only disrupt our stability and progress made over the past few years, it will significantly hamper efforts to help students who have fallen behind during the pandemic. We need you to step up now and provide the oversight (or at least adult supervision) to ensure that we are positioning our students for success in what will be a very difficult instructional year. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Alexandra Simbana – DC Council – Public Roundtable on DCPS Return to In-Person Instruction – Dec 2, 2020

Alexandra Simbana
for the
Committee of the Whole and Committee on Education Joint Public Roundtable on DCPS Return to In-Person Instruction

December 2, 2020

Good afternoon my name is Alexandra Simbana, a Cleveland Elementary parent and LSAT member. As a DCPS parent I want to stress the health risks front and center for many of our DCPS families. Remaining with distance learning is the safest option and offers the most stability to our students, teachers and staff. Maintaining the routine for students is the option which will help our children be most confident and secure in their learning during these strange and scary times. 

Unfortunately DCPS has once again developed a plan without community engagement and presented it as a fait accompli and then surprised when families, teachers and staff speak out against it. This practice MUST stop.  Parents MUST be front and center of any planning. 

There are many issues with continued distance learning but all of those can be mitigated by actually engaging with families and asking what they need instead of making assumptions. 

I would encourage any future plans include input directly from LSATs, the education councils, PTAs/PTOs and open forums where all families can provide feedback. The risks and consequences are life and death choices and those should not be minimized. While no one anticipated a pandemic, we can and should plan for how to best manage the current situation with health, safety, and transparency at the forefront. 

Increasing and improving citywide internet is a whole government issue which can be implemented if it is made a priority. Improving the OCTO helpline service can also be done with real input from users. 

Time and again, the DCPS families and community has made itself available to find long term solutions to the issues that hold back our system from being great. Today you will hear from us again as we continue to offer ourselves and our assistance. Please work together WITH us so we can all move forward for the benefit of all our DCPS schools. 

Thank you. 

Allyson Crier Brown Testimony – DC Council – Public Roundtable on DCPS Return to In-Person Instruction – Dec 2, 2020

Testimony of Allyson Criner Brown

for the

Committee of the Whole and Committee on Education Joint Public Roundtable on DCPS Return to In-Person Instruction

December 2, 2020

Greetings Councilmembers,

My name is Allyson Criner Brown. I live in Ward 8, am the parent of a DCPS 1st grader (as well as a 2 year old), and I am an LSAT member at Beers Elementary, my daughter’s school. I have also spent the last decade doing family engagement and parent organizing with DCPS schools in almost every Ward, though I am testifying solely as a parent and LSAT member.

As a Black woman who has already been forced to play medical roulette, ended up on a ventilator in the ICU, and barely made it out of the hospital with my life, I take this virus very seriously. Many of the vulnerable families that are being talked about, particularly in Wards 7 & 8 — whether they are being talked to isn’t clear — also take this virus very seriously. It is not just about the fatality rate. My spouse and I have two young children who need us, and we do not have immediate family nearby who could take them in. If one of us goes down with a fever or is effectively incapacitated for days, weeks, or months — and I do know people who have had that happen due to COVID — that could do serious harm to our children and our family. And to my daughter’s test scores, for those who need to hear that. Do not assume that offering the first seats for in-person instruction to children in the target categories is equivalent to an “equitable” plan. And those students are not distributed evenly across DCPS. Many of them will have to stay home to protect themselves and other family members. Many of the children who will supposedly benefit from in-person instruction NEED high quality distance learning. Any reopening plan needs to take into serious consideration any harms that could come from disrupting teacher assignments and school schedules, with vulnerable students in mind. What targeted support has DCPS done for these families besides rushing to reopen the schools? The Council should inquire about this. Distance learning is tough, but a lot of us — parents and teachers — are figuring it out as best as we can, and that’s the support we need right now.

I have some very sharp words to say about the poor engagement of parents and educators since the spring, but I don’t have much time. Transparency and communication are what build trust and confidence, not press conferences. When it comes to reopening: the Devil is in fact in the details, and many of the details important to parents and teachers are not clear, not available, or don’t add up. The walkthroughs that were done the week before in-person instruction was supposed to start with Term 2 revealed that by and large, many schools were not ready, including Beers. Parents, who each year buy tissue, cleaning wipes, and related items as “school supplies” — and who also know that the A/C and heating aren’t consistent in the building, by mid-year soap and toilet paper are running low in the bathrooms, and that many repairs are needed throughout the building — have questions and trepidation about the promises of adequate PPE, HVAC repairs, and processes for cleaning, screening, and communicating issues in the building.

Seven days ago the Beers team that is meeting to discuss reopening was full of concerns, several of which include:

  • Concerns about meeting staffing needs (including allowing staff who need to stay home to stay home)
  • How many students actually want to come back? Our CARES class attendance is already fluctuating and some classes have been very low.
  • What will the school day actually look like?
  • What if our school community does not agree with the District’s plan to force us to reopen?
  • How many students can we “safely” have on campus?

What happens when teachers get sick? How can this be done without huge disruption when students and staff get sick? Schools East of the River have already had a harder time finding substitutes… what happens if and when that is needed? As a parent, these details matter to me! There still seems to be a lot of confusion at every level about what the plans are or might be, and then decisions are announced by press release. Each school community has its own considerations and concerns, and right now is the time to ask the teachers what support they need from the system to support students and families, especially those not as engaged.

Why is there no testing plan in place to detect asymptomatic cases? NYC and other urban centers that are opening have ongoing testing at the school as part of their reopening plans to help detect asymptomatic cases. Considering that people can still congregate to eat and do other activities indoors here in DC, that must be a part of any sound reopening plan. Most of the public testing sites are open 9am to 1pm. When are these “prioritized” teachers supposed to go?

Before my time is up, there are three charges I have for the Council.

First, we really still do not know what is going to happen with this pandemic or vaccine, so DCPS needs to support and allow its teachers to continue to improve their DL craft because there will be students who need that as their option. Not a backup option, but their way to access schools.

Second, there are supports families need during the pandemic that schools can not provide: rent relief; a basic income to meet basic needs and buy the extra “school supplies” some of us needed at home this year (like a desk, chair, and headsets for the kids); high speed internet across the city; pay and job protections for workers to stay home to be safe and so they can support children in distance learning. The Council can still take action on that and should. When schools do eventually reopen, many of these students and their families will be facing the same challenges that also impede student learning and growth.

Third, looking ahead to FY22, hold school budgets harmless next year. There are a lot of question marks about enrollment and what is going to happen. Schools may have lost students but they may get them back, and in some cases even more. Our schools were already underfunded by the UPSFF standards, and kids and staff will be coming back with even greater needs. Cutting the school budgets based on enrollment projections will be throwing a hand grenade into schools that can damage them for years to come. I told the Chancellor and his staff at the DCPS budget hearing a couple weeks ago that there is a question that parents will be asking themselves next year, and for reopening: “Do I feel confident that the school I’m sending my child back to will be resourced, staffed, and supported to meet their needs of my child and their peers?” I place the burden of that question on the shoulders of the Council and Mayor as well.

W6PSPO Meeting Agenda – November 16, 2020

Dear Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization members,

There’s a lot going on, and I’m doing my best to capture it!

  1. The W6PSPO meeting will be on Monday, November 16, from 7 – 8:30 pm (please note we’re moving our normal Tuesday meeting to Monday).  A zoom link will be sent out before the meeting.  On Monday, we’ll share experiences on the walk-throughs that have been held to see if schools are ready for in-person instruction.  We will be joined by Councilmember Charles Allen to discuss school reopenings.  We’ll also share what schools are planning to do for holiday gift giving for staff and teachers.
  2. DCPS just announced the schools that will be opening CARES classroom(s) on Wednesday, November 18.  You can see the list here.  Seven of the 34 schools are in Ward 6.  The number of classrooms and grades will vary by school.
  3. Councilmember Silverman introduced the COVID-19 DCPS Reopening Emergency Act of 2020.   This legislation hasn’t passed, and we are looking into what we can do to support Councilmember Silverman’s efforts to ensure plans for in-person learning are developed collaboratively and transparently.  More to come on this.
  4. DCPS is holding a FY22 budget hearing on Monday, November 23, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.  You can sign up to testify here.  The deadline to register to testify is 3 pm on Thursday, November 19.
  5. EmpowerEd is holding a Virtual Summit on Community Voice in DC Education on Saturday, December 5, from 10 am to 12:30 pm. This is a teacher led summer that will be a public conversation on re-envisioning our education governance system- how to ensure that the voices of students, teachers, parents, principals and community members are heard and that broader checks and balances are in place to improve transparency, accountability and equity in our system.  At the virtual summit, there will be a community panel on mayoral control where teachers will present proposals for reform, and a community brainstorming session for needed reforms. You can register for the summit here.

Suzanne Wells Testimony – DC Council – Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020

Committee of the Whole

Bill 23-736

Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020

November 13, 2020

            My name is Suzanne Wells.  I am the president of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization.  Our organization is a member of the Coalition for DC Public Schools and Communities.  Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the District of Columbia’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020.  My testimony is focused on the Educational Facilities Element.  I offer five suggestions for how the draft can and should be improved. 

            First, the proposed Education Facilities Element makes random mentions of the role high quality, matter-of-right schools in every community play in attracting and retaining families with children in the city.  It is important for the Council to explicitly state at the beginning of the Educational Facilities Element the City’s responsibility to provide high-quality, matter-of-right neighborhood schools and feeder systems in all eight wards.  The Comprehensive Plan should also call for city-wide student assignment policies that promote racial and socioeconomic diversity in our matter-of-right schools.

            Second, if the Council is interested in being fiscally responsible, it should be very concerned about the sections of the proposed Educational Facilities Element that suggest  investing in new school capacity. In school year 2017/2018, the city had approximately 21,000 empty seats across DCPS and the charter sector.  Since 2018, DCPS has opened one new selective high school, and expanded one selective high school.  In the past two years, the Public Charter School Board (PCSB) has opened six new elementary, middle and high schools, and expanded existing charter schools.  Having this much excess educational facilities capacity is expensive.  It results in spreading our education dollars thinly across many schools, and often prevents the city from investing in the types of programming students deserve.  Our city needs to be much more intentional about making school opening decisions based on projected student enrollment.  The Educational Facilities Element should underscore the need for such planning ,and certainly should not broadly encourage additional capacity.

            Third, while the District is to be commended for its commitment to DCPS school modernizations, there are three changes that could strengthen the proposed plan relating to the modernizations.  First, any further school modernizations should set a target for net zero energy use.  Second, there need to be more resources devoted to maintaining the schools that are modernized to protect the investments the city has made in these buildings.  And, third, there should be a date certain to complete full school modernizations for all our schools.  Many of the schools yet to be modernized are east of the river.  Every community deserves a fully modernized school. 

Fourth, Section 1203.3 suggests studying neighborhood impacts when locating DCPS and public charter schools. Studying these impacts is curiously limited to only situations when schools are located in non-school facilities.  We have numerous instances of controversial openings of new schools steps away from existing schools.  I think the intent of studying impacts when locating schools is wise, but this section should be revised to require an educational impact assessment for any new school opening regardless of the type of facility the school is located in.

            Finally, section 1208.15 on the Reuse of DCPS School Surplus Space should be stricken because it encourages co-location of charter schools in under enrolled DCPS school buildings. Co-location was the subject of substantial controversy during recent debates on the 2020 Budget Support Act.  At that time, Councilmembers claimed a co-location amendment did not encourage such co-locations but merely set the terms of them. The Educational Facilities Element explicitly encourages such co-locations.  Locating a charter school in an under enrolled DCPS school building could significantly limit options DCPS has to utilize its facilities, and would work directly against the overarching goal of strengthening the matter-of-right feeder systems around the city.  

Sandra Moscoso Testimony – DC Council – Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020

Testimony of Sandra Moscoso

Committee of the Whole Hearing on B23-736, Comp Plan
November 12, 2020 @ 10am

Good morning Chairman and Councilmembers. I am Sandra Moscoso, a parent of two students at School Without Walls High School and president of the school’s Home and School Association, I am secretary of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization, a member of the Ward 2 Education Council, and a former Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Education Campus and former BASIS DC charter parent. 

I am here to discuss education facilities and express opposition of section 1203.4, which calls for co-location of “public charter schools within significantly underused DCPS facilities.” 

The Comprehensive Plan is based on the Deputy Mayor for Education’s 2018 Master Facility Plan (MFP), which in turn is based on recommendations from the DME’s 2018 study. 

However, not the DME study, nor the MFP are supported by any kind of comprehensive education plan inclusive of DCPS and charter sectors. While we can predict needs for seats via population projections, without a strategy or coordination about how to fill those needs, any facilities planning is nonsensical and reactive – just like the proposed co-location. 

I urge Council to insist that the DME work with DCPS and the DC Public Charter School Board on a Comprehensive education plan and only after that is in place, address the role of facilities in supporting citywide education objectives.

As stated in section 1200.24, the Comp Plan should ensure “that investments in schools promote equity and excellence, serve the needs of all students, and provide access to educational skills and development opportunities across all eight wards through matter-of-right neighborhood schools and Districtwide public schools.” 

Vulnerable schools should be adequately funded, so they can support and grow their existing communities and programming. 

These schools should not be asked to bear the burden of lack of planning by our city.

And on a personal note, my children were enrolled in a co-located school for 5 years. I can confidently share that co-location introduced difficulties around design and scheduling of shared spaces, in particular when pedagogy was not aligned across programs. It’s not worth it. Please strike section 1203.4.

A second concern I would like to raise with the Comp Plan is the risk of loss of access to green space by DC Public Schools students under section 805.12, which ”Encourages shared-use agreements for green spaces owned by District government and DCPS.” 

We all saw how this played out last year with Jelleff field, where a private school who can afford to pay, received years of priority access to a public space during peak after school hours. 

This also happened when Ellington Field was moved out of DCPS’ control to be managed by DPR, introducing shared use agreements and creating a situation where public school students risk competing with private entities over the use of public school space. It is worth noting that DC charter outdoor spaces are not subject to these “shared-use” agreements. 

Please strike section 805.12.

Thank you for your time. 

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