WASHINGTON, D.C. — A group of Ward 8 residents have joined forces with Councilman Marion Barry in denouncing the stalled renovations of three schools that have been closed since 2008.
According to Barry who convened a press conference Tuesday at Anita J. Turner Elementary School in Southeast Washington, parents and community stakeholders are upset over the unfulfilled promises of Chancellor Michelle Rhee and her cohorts at the Wilson Building and want the work to begin immediately.
“In 2008 Michelle Rhee closed this school as well as another school in Ward 8,” Barry said. “The chancellor promised me that the rebuilding of Turner would be in the 2010 budget. Lo and behold, I found out last week that she went back on her promise.”
Barry said that as a result the community “is outraged at another promise made, another promise broken and we’re just tired of it,” and is demanding that plans for the schools’ renovation be put in the 2011 budget.
Turner was one of 23 public schools that closed because of under-enrollment or poor physical condition.
However, Turner’s closing was softened with a promise by school officials to modernize or rebuild it while its students attended classes over the next three years at Green Elementary School.
The other two schools for which similar promises were made are Bruce-Monroe Elementary in Ward 1 and the Brookland Education Campus in Ward 5; and students who once attended classes at those facilities have since been re-routed to Park View Elementary and Bunker Hill, respectively.
Meanwhile, city officials have reportedly blamed the delays on budget constraints stemming from the sluggish economy and other unanticipated expenditures. It was also reported this week that the promised renovations are unlikely to materialize any time soon.
But Ward 8 community activist Anna Carter insists Turner should never have closed because money for its preservation had already been earmarked.
She also said its closing is an attempt to force residents from the community in favor of plans to re-populate it with a different class of residents.
According to Carter, residents are being forced out by the “ruffle of dollars and jingle of change.”
“Now we are being told that our school is being bought by developers,” Carter said. “How can you sell school property? I want to know because to me, this is not urban renewal, this is Negro removal.”
Resident Cynthia Eaglin concurred. She said city officials will never understand the needs of Ward 8 because they don’t live there. “We want to know where their heart is when it comes to the children of our community,” she said.
At the time Rhee announced plans in late 2007 to close schools, she said money spent on unnecessary space would be better utilized to improve academics and faculty.