At Benning Elementary, School’s Out Forever

NE Campus Closing A Year After Rhee’s Visit Stirred Hope

Bill Turque of the Washington Post Staff Writes:

Last June 12 was a day of unusual promise at Benning Elementary, a dingy, virtually windowless school near RFK Stadium with a leaky roof, occasional air conditioning and dismal test scores.That day it became the first school visited by Michelle A. Rhee as chancellor, just hours after her surprise unveiling by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

In an elegant white jacket, she walked the dimly lighted corridors and soiled carpets with Fenty and a platoon of cameras, chatting up students and teachers, promising to fix what ailed Benning. Fenty (D) picked the Northeast Washington school for Rhee’s debut, aides said, because it crystallized many of the technical and academic challenges she would face. Her brief tour created the most striking image of change on a momentous day in the city’s history, the first in which the long-troubled school system was under mayoral control.

Today, exactly a year later, change has overtaken Benning, but not the kind that most parents, teachers and staff had sought. As summer break begins for 47,000 D.C. public school students, Benning is closing for good, one of 23 low-enrollment schools Rhee has decided to shutter. After a moment of such genuine hope, it is a bitter thing for many parents and staff members.

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