Commissioners Oppose Closure of Garrison Elementary School

Commissioners from ANC 2F today announced their opposition to the proposed closure of Garrison Elementary School in a letter to Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.

In a shocking move, Henderson announced her proposal at 4 p.m. on Nov. 13 to close Garrison and 19 other schools.  Adding insult to injury, the deadline for citizens to sign up to testify against the closures was set for just one hour after the announcement was made.

“The Proposal to close Garrison undermines DCPS’s stated goals of the consolidation and reorganization, which include meeting ‘the diverse needs’ of students, and creating ‘flexible’ schools, by ‘allowing for population growth and shifts and always ensuring that students have high-quality schools in their neighborhood as well as out-of-boundary options,'” the letter stated.  “In addition, closing Garrison will undo the community’s efforts over the last several years to improve the school, and it ignores the important role Garrison plays in our neighborhood.”

The letter goes on to say that Garrison is indeed diverse and is “already a neighborhood school … that is two-thirds full with 60 percent of the students coming from the local community.”  The letter also states that the booming Logan Circle neighborhood will soon push Garrison toward full capacity, and that Seaton Elementary School, into which Garrison would be consolidated, doesn’t have enough room.

The letter points to intensive work over the past three years to improve Garrison, including the re-establishment of a PTA.  “After three years of hard work led by parents and community members, and with new school leadership appointed less than three months ago, many essential elements are now in place to steepen Garrison’s trajectory to becoming one of the top schools in the District,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by ANC 2F Chairman Mike Benardo, Vice Chairman Matt Raymond, Commissioner Charles Reed, and Commissioner Matt Connolly.  The letter states that they were signing in their individual capacities, because the swiftness of the proposal meant that the commission will have to wait until its next meeting on Dec. 5 to weigh in with a formal vote.

You can read the full text of the letter here.

Evelyn Boyd Simmons, chair of ANC 2F’s Education Committee, testified today at the second of two City Council hearings into the matter.

“As elected officials, you understand the importance of staying ahead of demographic shifts and neighborhood dynamics. I fear that DCPS, sadly, has become de-coupled from communities,” her prepared testimony stated.

“I sincerely hope DCPS will reconsider its proposal and work with Garrison and others to strengthen our schools and develop stable and viable feeder patterns that give all our students access to a quality education.”

Her full testimony can be found here.

According to coverage in The Washington Post, in response to intense community opposition to closing Garrison, Henderson said in today’s Council hearing that “I want to make sure that this is not a case of the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

Logan Circle and surrounding neighborhoods that count on Garrison aren’t squeaking, they’re roaring.  It’s time that policymakers listened, rather than trying to shove through an ill-conceived proposal under cover of darkness.

UPDATE: Garrison supporters are encouraging people to sign a petition at Change.org.

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