D.C. school closures: Activists, attorneys to file lawsuit

Kaya Henderson says closing schools with low-enrollment will save the city millions. Photo: Associated Press

With signs like “Stop Closing Our Schools” protesters started outside the Wilson Building promising a lawsuit over recent school closings which they say mostly affected students in poor blacker neighborhoods.

The lawsuit comes less than a week after DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced that more than a dozen schools in the District will close at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

"It's not fair to our kids or me who has to get children back and forth to school,” says parent Shannon Smith.

Henderson argues that low enrollment at the campuses is one of many factors involved in the decision to close the schools. An original plan was to close 20 schools, but the plan was pared back before being finalized.

City leaders say the move can save the District $8.5 million per year, but critics of the plan say that the closures disproportionately affect minority students.

Wards 5 and 7 will see the heaviest impact of the closures, with four schools being shuttered in each of the two areas. Schools in Wards 4, 6 and 8 are also slated for closure.

"Our thing is treat the people in Anacostia different than they treat the people Albermarle," says attorney Johnny Barnes.

Protesters carried their signs inside where Henderson testified by the council's new education committee chaired by David Catania.

Indeed, the data comparing D.C. public schools are startling. Over the last two years, the public schools have seen a 1.4 percent decline in enrollment while the public charter schools have seen a 21 percent increase. And the chancellor Wednesday seemed to accept that in some areas she can't compete with charters.

"If D.C.P.S. can't provide middle school options as quickly and as high quality as charters, maybe that's okay," says Henderson.