Cities News Roundup
A proposal to close 12 schools in the District of Columbia--the largest number of closings ever proposed in the district--has been put on hold for a few weeks while school officials investigate the possibility of finding tenants to occupy some of the classroom space.
Such a solution would enable officials to keep the schools open and maintain neighborhood schools, while making constructive use of the space that is no longer needed by the school, according to Janis L. Cromer, a spokesman for Superintendent Floretta D. McKenzie.
The situation is complicated, however, because the city council, not the school board, now has leasing authority for the school buildings. As soon as a school is closed, it reverts to the city. A bill that would give the school district leasing authority has been written by a city-council member and awaits introduction before the council, Ms. Cromer said.
In addition, the school district's budget, including any school closings, must be approved by a Congressional committee.
Ms. McKenzie's plan is the first major school-closing proposal for the district, in which enrollment has dropped from 120,000 in 1977 to 95,000 in the current school year. Enrollment figures were the main criterion in deciding which schools should be recommended for closing, according to the spokesman.
In addition, Ms. MacKenzie and her staff considered the potential impact of closing schools--for example, how easy it would be to maintain the integrity of the instructional program--as well as the age and condition of the buildings, alternate facilities available, and other factors.
So far, the community has been "surprisingly quiet," according to Ms. Cromer. If the board decides to proceed with the closings, however, citizens will have an opportunity to voice their concerns at public hearings.
A federal appellate court has exonerated the state of Ohio and the Youngstown school board of charges that the Youngstown schools were intentionally segregated.
The decision, by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, upheld a district judge's 1978 opinion that racial imbalance in the city's schools was not the result of intentional discrimination. The decision, the appellate judges noted, could have gone either way, but they found no reversible errors in the lower court's decision.
In 1977, when the desegregation suit went to trial, some 89 percent of the city's children were in "racially identifiable schools." While the district judge found no illegal segregation, he did order that school faculties be desegregated.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has contended that the district judge misinterpreted the evidence.
The Youngstown school board's policies in locating schools and drawing attendance boundaries contributed to racial imbalances, the naacp contends. And the civil-rights group claims that the state did nothing to eliminate segregation in the city's schools, even though state policies prohibit racial imbalance in public schools.
It was not known last week whether the naacp would appeal.
Faced with a projected budget deficit of $3.1 million, an enrollment loss of nearly 1,000 students, and its third consecutive budget of $210 million, the Boston school depart-Supt. Floretta McKenzie
ment last week mailed notices to some 700 teachers that they could be laid off by July.
At most, 300 of the system's 3,700 teachers will actually be terminated, according to department officials. But because state law requires that teachers be notified by April 15 if their contracts are in jeopardy, the school department sent the extra notices.
Last year, 2,300 teachers were warned of possible layoffs and about 800 were finally let go.
The school committee was scheduled to hold public hearings and receive testimony from staff members last week to determine spending priorities--which may help to determine how many teachers, and in which areas, will actually be laid off.
Vol. 01, Issue 30