DCPS says closed schools save $17 million
When Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee closed and consolidated 23 under-enrolled schools in 2008, she justified the highly unpopular decision in part by the prospect of significant savings that could be rolled into classrooms. At a meeting with Post editors and reporters in January 2008, she estimated that the school system would save $23 million in operating costs.
Two years later, DCPS says that its projections at the time were actually in the $15 to 20 million range and that it has seen reductions totaling $16.7 million. This includes lower costs for custodial service, security and salaries for principals, assistant principals and other school leadership. It does not cover anticipated savings in food services, and spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway said a complete analysis would have to be done by Chief FInancial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi.
The closings eliminated an estimated two million square feet of space in DCPS' building inventory. On average, according to District figures, each of the closed schools was enrolled at just 51 percent of capacity.
But shuttering schools is also expensive, costing at least $110 million from the city's capital budget. And the empty buildings still generate on-going costs. The District pays about $1.2 million a year in utility costs on the closed schools that remain in the DCPS inventory. Janitorial and engineering services run about $300,000 a year, according to figures provided by the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization.
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