Last Friday Mayor Bowser announced D.C. schools would close May 29; charters say not so fast

On Friday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser revealed that DCPS would continue instructing students utilizing distance learning until May 29th and would then close for the school year three weeks ahead of schedule. In her remarks she stated that charter schools would shutter on or around the same date.

Recall that on Friday, March 13th, Ms. Bowser closed DCPS beginning the following Monday, stating that it would reopen on April 1st. The Mayor said that she expected charters to follow suit, which they did. All schools then quickly adopted distance learning plans for their students. On March 20th she delayed the opening until April 27th. April 6th she held a teleconference with education leaders in which she stated that the April 27th date would not be met and that schools are closed indefinitely. Finally, at the end of last week, she proclaimed that the 2019-to-2020 term would end on May 29th instead of June 19.

Ms. Bowser did raise the possibility that schools could reopen early in the fall in order to make up for lost instructional time.

My immediate reaction was that the Mayor does not have the power to dictate to charters their last day of school. Apparently, the executive director of the DC Public Charter School Board Scott Pearson agreed. In a tweet immediately following Ms. Bowser’s remarks he wrote, “This is inaccurate. Public charter schools each have their own closure schedules. Many are choosing to serve students well into June.” The message was sent directly to @MayorBowser.

So ended coordination between the traditional schools and charters during the most significant public health crisis we have seen in our lifetimes.

Of course, the Mayor has authority over charter schools when it comes to the health and safety of its students. That is why when she required schools to stop having students learn in classrooms on March 16, charters fell in line. However, now that pupils are being taught remotely, there is no safety consideration governing a closing date. Two charters that serve some of our city’s most at-risk students, Kingsman Academy PCS and KIPP DC PCS, reacted to the Mayor’s news by announcing that they would stay upon until June 12th. Community College Preparatory Academy PCS will end its year on June 30th as planned. Other schools have not yet committed to their final day of instruction. You can see the list here.

To the schools that have decided to stay open beyond May 29th and for the immediate rebuttal by Mr. Pearson, I can say that I have never been so proud of our local movement. This clear demonstration of student-centered autonomy is why charters were established in the first place.

I sincerely hope that other schools follow the needs of parents and scholars by independently determining when school is over for the year, whether that is May 29th, June 19th, or another date of their choosing.

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