Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter!

Parents grill leader on school closure

The Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools visited Stevens Elementary School Wednesday night to relieve concerns over the impending closure of the 140-year-old Foggy Bottom school.

Amid a tense atmosphere, Chancellor Michelle Rhee explained that the closure of Stevens – first opened as a school for freed slaves – was in the best interest of D.C. students.

“My job is to make sure every single child in this city is getting an excellent education,” Rhee said.

Many parents said they see the school’s closure as result of its prime location on K Street, and questioned the benefits of moving Stevens’ students to a new school. Stevens is one of 22 schools in the District that will be closed next year to save the city $23.7 million.

Bernard Hackett, a parent, spoke about the support system that Stevens provided to his young son when his mother died last year. He said the larger classes and student body at a new school would harm the students.

“It’s like our children are being sacrificed for dollars,” Hackett told the chancellor. He said the city is just looking at the future plans for the property.

“You can change this building to a Stevens Condominium, used-to-be-a-black-kids’-school, and it changes everything,” Hackett said. “How do you address these issues when you’ve never been inside to talk to these kids?”

Stevens, located just two blocks outside GW’s campus, has hosted many GW students as volunteers and tutors through the D.C. Reads program. At another meeting with D.C. parents at the end of last year, Rhee heard the pleas of a GW tutor who argued that a relocation would make it difficult to continue the program.

Rhee has promised D.C. residents that the school closures would save enough money to put full-time librarians and music, art and physical education teachers in every school.

Nathan Saunders, vice president of the Washington Teacher’s Union, said he attended Wednesday night’s meeting representing the teachers dissatisfied with the school closure.

“The teachers are against applying for a job they already have,” Saunders said. He explained that Stevens teachers will have to reapply for teaching positions if they want to follow their students to another school. Rhee responded that her office is urging as many teachers as possible to transfer with their students.

Gail Bell, the secretary of the Parent Teacher Association at Stevens, spoke about the parental concern that few teachers will make the transition to a new school.

“I have three children here. Some I do plan on moving to Francis, but I’d like to see some familiar faces,” Bell said. “If it’s inevitable that the school closes, I want that the teachers can come over with ease.”

Bell and a number of other parents formed the Stevens Stars Concerned Parent Partnership at the beginning of the closure process to lobby for Stevens being removed from the list of doomed schools.

As Rhee insists that Stevens will be closed, some opponents have resigned themselves to the transition.

Bell said the promises of new permanent teachers and renovated facilities at Francis are encouraging.

She said, “I just hope that what they say will come to fruition.”

More to Discover
Donate to The GW Hatchet