Washington Met closure is a total failure by DCPS

Graphic+by+Isa+Thompson

Graphic by Isa Thompson

Alik Schier

For the first time since 2013, DCPS will close a school. The Washington Metropolitan High School, an alternative school, was established to help vulnerable students who need more assistance than their neighborhood schools may offer. It will close at the end of the 2019-20 school year. Chancellor Lewis Ferebee and Mayor Muriel Bowser’s decision to close the school, while fundamentally wrong, brings an important issue to light: struggling schools are indicative of a policy failure at the hands of those who run them.

There are many intricate reasons why we shouldn’t close Washington Met specifically, but one major problem nobody seems to be talking about—or is scared to talk about —is the fact that DCPS and DC elected officials seem to turn their backs on public school students and staff who know firsthand what is happening at their own schools. 

If DCPS wants to cite reasons such as the school’s declining enrollment, poor attendance, and lagging achievement as reasons for the closure in order to close Met, why didn’t they do anything before to try to fix this? And if they didn’t know about these problems beforehand, why didn’t they? Either way, it reflects poorly on DCPS, showing that they either looked the other way when they were informed about the school’s issues or they simply didn’t visit the school enough times to know they existed in the first place. 

DCPS has a lot to answer for, and in their typical fashion, has given limited and vague answers that seem to do more to protect their image than actually provide answers for the students, teachers, and staff they are supposed to work for. How can DCPS conclude that Washington Met is a failed school when DCPS hasn’t provided the necessary tools and resources that are fundamental to the school’s success? Negligence from DCPS should not result in a school closure. Closing Washington Met sends the wrong message to students across the city. 

With deteriorating facilities and poor academic performance, DCPS thought the best solution was to simply close the school. Reports from inside the school show that Met has a handful of student parents, yet no daycare or childcare offered. They have a library, yet no librarian or computers. 

 Once again, a policy failure to properly fund neighborhood schools and provide them with the resources needed to provide a safe and healthy environment that allows all students to thrive has caused the shutdown of a vital school. 

Why are we closing schools in the first place? If anything, we should open more, helping to provide a real choice to students across the city and creating an education system that sets us up for success. Instead of closing schools, DCPS and the DC Government should invest more in schools and services that allow school to be a place where students thrive, feel safe, and have the resources to succeed every day. 

Despite the education improvements and proposals the Chancellor and Mayor tout, sentiment among so many students is that they are doing nothing. Mental health concerns are on the rise, students are struggling with maintaining a healthy school-life balance, teachers are overworked, our classroom sizes are too big, our success is determined by how good our test scores are, and schools are beginning to feel less and less like a community.

We are told to speak up and make our voices heard, but then when we do we are ignored and dismissed. Washington Met is just the latest step in the fight for a fairer and more holistic approach to our education system. Students and teachers have been raising concerns for a while now, and we’ve made progress, but the fight is far from over. We need to continue to raise our voices and advocate for real change. We need to elect leaders that actually represent us and listen to students rather than brush them off. We need DCPS to make serious changes to its agenda. 

Councilmember Robert White (At-Large) introduced emergency legislation to pause the closing of Washington Met, but it was narrowly defeated by a vote 7-5 in favor; it needed 8 votes to pass. CM Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), CM Trayon White (Ward 8), CM Elissa Silverman (At-Large), CM Allen (Ward 6), CM Gray (Ward 7), CM Mary Cheh (Ward 3) and CM Robert White (At-Large) all voted for the measure. CM Todd (Ward 4), CM McDuffie (Ward 5), CM Grosso (At-Large), CM Bonds (At-Large), and Chairman Mendelson all voted against the measure. 

2020 is an election year, and many of you reading this will be eligible to vote on November 3rd and in the primary on June 2nd. I urge you to look at those against this measure, and see if there is anyone running against them who opposes the closure of Washington Met, and further, wants to expand public education and hold DCPS accountable. Vote for candidates up and down the ballot that plan to invest in public education and want to expand public resources, not give them to charter and private schools. Vote for a president that will appoint a secretary of education that believes in public schools, and will fire Betsy Devos on day one. Public officials should work for us, not the other way around. •