Monday, June 09, 2008

Charters invited to bid on unused DCPS facilities

From Robert Crane's FOCUS D.C. Public Charter School Bulletin.
By law, the District’s public charter schools are to be given a “right of first offer” on all empty DCPS school buildings and on unused space in operating DCPS school buildings. This right has been consistently ignored by mayors past and present and by the D.C. Council, forcing the majority of charter schools to seek space in church basements, former warehouses, and the like.

Now the Fenty administration has explicitly acknowledged the first-offer right in a “Notice of Schools Available for Disposition to Non-Governmental Entities” dated June 5, inviting the charter schools to exercise their right of first offer by bidding on five DCPS school buildings. The government, however, already has committed to using one of the five buildings as a homeless shelter, promised two more to specific charter schools, and agreed to permit part of another to be outfitted to serve as an “incubator” for new charter schools. Only for the one remaining building has “no use been determined,” according to a government spokesperson.

Under these circumstances, why these buildings were put out for bid is unclear, though the most likely reason is that the government was trying to retroactively achieve some sort of technical compliance with the first-offer legal requirement. The government had no such compunctions about another former school building that was designated last month for use as a police substation.

Only one of the five buildings that are the subject of the Notice is on the list of 23 schools being closed by the DCPS Chancellor. It is not known how many of the others will be made available for charter school bid, or when.

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