The announcement that Francis-Stevens Education Campus in D.C.'s West End neighborhood could close caused Sarah Reece to start looking at the city's public charter schools for her two sons.
If her sons remain in a traditional public school next year, they will go to Marie Reed Elementary School, which is not close enough to where the family lives to be feasible, Reece said at the D.C. Public Charter School Expo on Saturday.
Reece is one of many parents looking for alternatives to D.C. Public Schools after Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson proposed closing 20 schools at the end of the academic year. At no cost to District residents, charter schools are many parents' first choice.
Source: D.C. Public Charter School Board
|D.C. charter school enrollment|
|*In 2008, then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced the closing of 23 D.C. public schools, likely accounting for some of the higher-than-usual increase in charter school enrollment that year. Also that year, Center City, a group of Catholic schools, became public charter schools, adding 1,448 new students to the D.C. Public Charter School system.|
D.C. at-large Councilmember David Catania had barely arrived at Saturday's expo when he saw parents of a student whose school is slated to close.
"They're here hoping their school doesn't close, but in the event that it does, they're looking for an alternative," he said.
Henderson said she plans to release the final list of school closings next week. The application deadline for more than 85 charter schools is March 15.
Meanwhile, some charter schools are preparing for an increase in applications.
With five schools slated to close in its ward, Friendship Public Charter School's Woodridge Elementary and Middle Campus is trying to communicate with parents looking for options, said Principal Rictor Craig. Though the school does not have plans to increase enrollment, they are considering shifting students around to accommodate more students within their existing space.
D.C.'s charter schools are expecting a roughly 10 percent increase in enrollment next year, but that jump is a fairly standard increase for a year when the District is not closing schools, said D.C. Public Charter School Board Executive Director Scott Pearson. Much of that increase comes from four new charter schools opening their doors in the fall and numerous schools adding new grade levels.
Still, he said, the application process probably will be more competitive than usual. After then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced plans to close 23 D.C. public schools in 2008, charter school enrollment rose by 16.6 percent, compared with 10.6 percent the previous year and 8.5 percent the year after.
While not all parents of soon-to-be-displaced D.C. public school students are excited about charter schools, some say they don't have many options.
"Honestly, I don't really know what I'm going to do if Garrison [Elementary School] closes," said Ann McLeod, PTA president at the Logan Circle school. Getting a spot in a charter school will be tough, she said, but she doesn't want to send her son to Seaton Elementary School -- the D.C. Public Schools alternative -- "on principle."