Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The upcoming battle for "surplus" schools

Most expect Superintendent Janey to consolidate DCPS schools when he releases his facilities plan next year. Assuming that Janey gets his wish (and that's a big assumption; you can expect one heck of a fight over which, if any, schools are to be closed) it leaves the question of what to do with the surplus facilities. Charter school supporters are already lobbying to have the buildings renovated and leased to charter schools.
Ariana Quinones-Miranda, executive director of the D.C. Public Charter Association, said the six buildings - most of which could be deemed historic properties - would be perfect for renovation and use by charter schools.

Charters have struggled to find proper facilities and have often been started in church basements or expensive commercial space.
And there's the catch. The rehabilitation of these old facilities is not cheap (just look at DCPS's proposed bill) and its doubtful that many charter schools would have the funds to take such a project on. This means, then, that the District would have to shoulder the financial burden of rehabilitating the facilities, which leads to the "if the District is going to spend money rehabilitating a structure for a charter school, why didn't they just rehab it and keep it within DCPS?"

Also, in order to help defray their own billion dollar plus facilities bill DCPS is going to be expected (or should be if they aren't) to get the best return on their surplus. This probably means selling or leasing to developers which will most likely result in condos, apartments or office and retail space.

So, how best should the District balance the needs of cash for DCPS facility repairs and the needs of charter schools? Discussion in the comment section (I know Mark Lerner will have some great input. He's dealt with just these issues with the WEDJ school).

UPDATE: More in the Post.

2 comments:

Mark Lerner said...

Nathan,

All I can say is thank god WEDJ has a permanent facility. Surplus schools don't do much for the D.C.'s charter school movement. They lease them for a year which does not provide stability. No bank is going to loan money to fix someone else's building, and as you mentioned, the cost is something charter schools, as start-up business, cannot afford. Its past time to stop playing games with charter school facilities. 25% of all school children now attend a charter.

Ed said...

With an argument like that, it's past time we fix up DCPS schools.