D.C. Public Schools relieved parents last week after it announced that School Without Walls students will likely never take classes at a local elementary school, though concerns remain over how one principal will lead both schools.
The announcement comes two years after Francis-Stevens Education Campus, a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school at 24th and N streets, escaped closure by linking with the G Street school. With 400 students enrolled this fall, Francis-Stevens will not have room for high school students in its classrooms, according to a letter from DCPS.
The city had hoped the merger would easy pressure on the School Without Walls’ building, which was over capacity with 585 students enrolled last school year. Classrooms are supposed to hold 450 students at most.
The letter from Chief of Schools John Davis highlighted the “positive student interactions and benefits of the merger.” Davis wrote that high schoolers had offered to tutor students at the elementary school, and School Without Walls hired an art teacher and guidance counselor using money from the two shared budgets.
DCPS has now decided to split the schools’ budgets, though the letter encouraged staff to “create efficiencies.”
Richard Trogisch, who serves as principal of both schools, defended the merger last spring after more than 1,000 parents signed a petition against the plans.
Terry Lynch said his daughter, who graduated from School Without Walls last spring, was “significantly shortchanged by the merger.” He said without Trogisch’s full attention, he failed to properly manage the top magnet high school.
“Having a campus split by a mile makes it even that much harder to justify having one principal,” Lynch said. “Logistically, it makes no sense. It’s almost impossible to have students at the high school over at Francis-Stevens because they can’t participate in the array of other activities when they’re not a part of any one class at Francis-Stevens.”
In an effort to lift the reputation of Francis-Stevens, parents have held neighborhood meetings with prospective families.
“They have been going to a lot of public events trying to get word out about the school, calling it a hidden gem,” said Peter Sacco, a senior at GW and member of Foggy Bottom’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission.
Chris Sondreal, who has a kindergartener at Francis Stevens, said Trogisch has helped elevate the curriculum at the elementary school.
“He rehired some of the staff and brought in a lot of new staff, and is really pushing academic rigour and really pushing the teachers who push the students to get to the basics,” Sondreal said.