Promises, Promises: Parents Say Its Time to Build Our School

As a mother, I feel that we have been meeting and meeting and meeting, and meanwhile the school system is just playing with us.”

“What kind of world we will have for our children when no one seems to care about their education.”

These were just two of the many comments from parents of Bruce-Monroe at Park View Elementary School in Washington, D.C. who demand that a new school building promised for 2011 be built immediately. The city must find the necessary resources to make this happen. The children are the ones who have suffered and been left at a disadvantage from the delays, disruptions and broken promises.

Three years ago the parents and staff at Bruce Monroe ES fought to keep their successful school off the Chancellor’s school closure list. After a year of protests, they were successful. But they were told that in order to keep their school, they would need to vacate the building for three years while a new building was erected as part of a private-public partnership. Their requests for time to plan carefully for a move so as not to disrupt the successful academic programs were denied by the Chancellor who cited the urgency of moving forward with the new construction. So, the staff and families moved to Park View ES. The two schools managed a consolidation the best they could with limited time and resources.

Education of this largely Latino and African American student population was disrupted with the explanation that the result would be a new improved learning environment.

Two years later, the parents demand an answer as to why not only has nothing happened with the Georgia Avenue building, now there are discussions about “interim use” for the space.

On Monday, March 8, 2010, over fifty parents, children and staff from Bruce-Monroe at Park View ES marched to a community meeting about the “interim use” of their former school site. The parents made it clear that they do not want to hear about interim uses of the property until a plan is in place for their new school building. Trust is thin after a decade of broken promises. (See photos and articles in The Washington Hispanic.) As a result of the parents’ outcry on March 8th, city representatives met with parents at Bruce Monroe at Park View on March 9th. Claudia Lujan, from the Chancellor’s office, and Donny Gonzalez from The Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization attended the weekly parent meeting at Bruce-Monroe at Park View on Tuesday, March 9th. The parents talked with Ms. Lujan about the status of the Park View building. Mr. Gonzalez toured the facilities with the parents, taking pictures and promising to address all the facility concerns within 30 days. Washington Post reporter Bill Turque also attended. While the parents would be pleased to see repairs to the temporary building, their primary concern is the promised new facility.

Background

Parents of Bruce-Monroe have been fighting a battle since 2001 to improve the learning environment for their children. At first, the battle was to repair exterior damage, replace opaque windows and install walls to create enclosed classrooms in the open spaced building. See The Washington Post, November 10, 2004. Teaching for Change, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., has worked with parents at the school where it uses the Tellin’ Stories approach to build meaningful parent-school relations and engagement. The active parent involvement, documented in a Rethinking Schools story (Spring 2009), contributed to the school achieving AYP and was instrumental in developing one of the few bilingual programs east of Rock Creek Park. An award from Target Corporation led to a beautiful $500,000 renovation of the school library. With all that it had to offer, the school’s enrollment was increasing while other schools in the area were experiencing a sharp decline.

But rather than allow this school that was doing so well to continue, the Chancellor placed Bruce-Monroe ES on the school closure list under her 2009 consolidation plan. The parents organized, making the case to the Chancellor that Bruce-Monroe did not meet the stated criteria—under-enrolled and not meeting AYP—for closing.

After parents made their protest very public with demonstrations, media interviews, and testimonies at city hall, the Chancellor took Bruce-Monroe off of the closure list. However, she said Bruce-Monroe would need to consolidate with Park View ES while a new building was built with a public-private partnership on the school’s prime Georgia Avenue location.

Parents and staff requested time to prepare for the consolidation of the two schools, to minimize disruption to the academic achievements they had made and to jointly plan a productive consolidation with the Park View staff and families. They also asked the Chancellor to consider alternative swing space. Each request was denied as they were told there was a rush to construct the new building. In the end, Bruce Monroe and Park View were consolidated in the Park View building with no time to prepare, but with the promise that the new building would be ready to be occupied by 2011.

Now the fight is back to square one. The city has backed off on the promise to build a new school and the parents, teachers and students are in another building in desperate need of repair. In addition, the number of buses promised to transport students from the old Bruce-Monroe school to the Park View site has dropped from six to two, and likely only one next year.

Most important, the supports have not been in place to sustain the school’s academic advances. Instead, the parents and staff had to shift their attention to saving their school and then to the merger. The school leadership, staff, and parents are to be commended for their tireless work on behalf of children despite all the obstacles. They deserve to continue their work with real support from central administration and the promised new building.

From The Parents and Friends of Bruce Monroe at Park View.

Posted Monday, March 8, 2010 |

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