Tonight the interim chancellor of DC Public Schools Kaya Henderson met with a large and very involved group of parents (and a lot of toddlers, some of whom showed off their impressive lung capacity) who want to see Van Ness Elementary reopened.
DCPS told those assembled that it is committed to making a decision on Van Ness in January, and that the decision will be based on "whether the numbers work out," both in terms of whether there are enough school-age children to support the school and whether the economic realities of a budget-crunched city government can get scarce dollars shuffled to pay for getting the school reopened (which would require taking money from other schools that are in need as well). DCPS handed out an information sheet
with some numbers in terms of children in the area and enrollment at nearby schools--I'm going to plead injury (thumb. ow.) and let you read it instead of summarizing.
Henderson mentioned many times the "positive energy" DCPS feels from the parents of the neighborhood, who clearly want a school opened immediately. There is no chance that Van Ness will open for the 2011-12 school year, the room was told, but one idea DCPS is looking at is possibly redrawing the boundaries for Tyler so that some of the Near Southeast children who live closer to Tyler than to Amidon (which is in Southwest) could go there. (One parent responded to this by saying that they hoped that all of Near Southeast could be included in a Tyler boundary redrawing "to keep the community together", and it's clear that many parents are not big fans of sending their kids to Amidon.)
At the end of the meeting, Tommy Wells said that with Van Ness in pretty good shape, capital funds shouldn't be a barrier to getting the school reopened if the necessary enrollment numbers are there. (Earlier, it had been announced [first by meeting organizer Bruce darConte and then a company representative] that EYA is pledging to undertake "buff and scrub" renovations at Van Ness if it'll help get the school reopened.)
Other than these items, the meeting was basically a "listening session," to allow parents to tell DCPS (again) their priorities and concerns. At the risk of being flip, I think I can boil it down to this: parents (and parents-to-be) in Near Southeast want Van Ness reopened. But it was a very collegial session--Henderson called it "one of the most delightful meetings I've been to."
So now the residents will wait to see what DCPS tells them---whether the school could reopen in 2012, or whether the numbers aren't quite there yet. It seems clear that DCPS expects Van Ness to reopen eventually--it's just a question of whether the timetable they come up with will be disappointing to the community.
[If this is less than complete, I apologize--I have to stop typing, I'm dying here! Feel free to use the comments to fill in what I didn't cover. You can also see Tommy Wells's tweets
from the meeting for more.] For more background, browse my previous posts
UPDATED to fix my Tyler/Brent mixups. As a non-parent, they're all the same to me. ;-)