Chavez Schools Invests in A New Vision for Its Unique College Prep & Public Policy Program

High schools in Wards 6 & 7 will merge and expand at Parkside campus; middle school programs will close

 

January 23, 2019 – The Board of Trustees of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy announced today that the network’s two high schools, Capitol Hill High School and Parkside High School, will merge at the end of this school year and move forward as a single school focused on college preparation and public policy, located at the Parkside campus in Ward 7. Chavez Schools will close Chavez Prep, its Columbia Heights campus for grades 6-9, at this end of this school year and is winding down its current middle school program at Parkside in 2020.

As one of the District of Columbia’s longest-operating charter networks, Chavez will focus in its third decade on building a premier secondary school at the 66,000 sq. ft. Parkside campus it owns in DC’s Kenilworth neighborhood. Over time, Chavez plans to rebuild the middle grades there as an entry point to a Chavez education.

“We will put all our energy into what Chavez does best, what only we do, and where we can make the biggest difference for scholars,” the board of trustees wrote in a message to the network’s families and staff. “We will focus on what Chavez Schools was uniquely founded to do: prepare DC’s young people to succeed in college, careers and life, and empower them to use public policy to create a more just, free and equal world,” the board wrote.

The trustees, who include a Chavez graduate, two current parents, the network’s founder as well as education, civic and business leaders, spent more than a year analyzing city enrollment trends and school options, the operations and performance of the network, and the long-term viability of operating three disconnected school buildings at a lower-than-planned student enrollment. The network’s current structure, including the financing of campus improvements made in the last decade, was established when the network enrolled nearly 1,500 students. This year, enrollment across all campuses stands at 956. The trustees’ analysis made clear that the network needed to restructure around a new, financially sustainable vision.

To realize this vision for the future, Chavez will:

 

  • Invest in its Parkside campus to create a unique, top-tier high school located in the modern building that Chavez owns at 3701 Hayes Street, NE. Parkside High School is not only Chavez Schools’ highest-performing campus, it is among the top five highest-performing high schools in Wards 6, 7 and 8 and far exceeds the performance of all DCPS high schools in these wards. Growing the high school and investing in the Parkside campus will lead to more Advanced Placement (AP) courses and advanced electives, more dual enrollment early college opportunities, more SAT preparation and support, a greater focus on college matching and alumni support, more public policy internships and policy curriculum offerings, more supports for students with special needs and for those learning English, and an even stronger athletic program. It also means building improvements, technology upgrades and greater support for teachers, staff and community.
  • Consolidate Capitol Hill High School into the Parkside campus at the end of this school year, effective June 30, 2019. Enrollment at the Capitol Hill campus has declined every year, except for one, each of the past six years. It currently serves 238 scholars, in a facility with capacity for 420. The school’s lease expires in one year, and enrollment is below almost all other high schools in the District and too low to sustain competitive programming.  At the Parkside campus, high school scholars will benefit from the modern facility. With science labs, a gymnasium, a library, nearby fields, and Metro access, the Parkside campus has space to enroll every scholar from Capitol Hill next school year. A majority of Capitol Hill scholars live in Wards 7 and 8, along with their Parkside peers, so for most students, Parkside is closer to home than Capitol Hill.
  • Close Chavez Prep Middle School at the end of this school year, effective June 30, 2019. Enrollment at the campus has declined annually since 2015 – down 34% from four years ago. Only 235 scholars attend a facility with capacity for more than 400. This trend leaves the facility significantly under-utilized and unaffordable given the level of operating expenses, which include financing costs covering improvements Chavez made to the Prep facility more than 10 years ago.
  • Parkside Middle School’s wind-down will continue, with the school ceasing operation in summer 2020. In 2017, the DC Public Charter School Board required that Chavez Schools gradually close Parkside Middle, causing a decline in network enrollment of 300 scholars.

 

“School options in DC have expanded exponentially since Chavez started as a one-campus school with 60 students in the basement of a grocery store. Competition for students has increased with the opening of more charter schools and the renovation and improvement of DCPS campuses,” the board wrote.

Chavez Schools staff will help Capitol Hill students transfer to the Parkside campus and will work with affected families at Chavez Prep to select alternative schools for the 2019-2020 school year. Affected staff will have the opportunity to apply for new positions being created at the enlarged high school.

“While we know that these changes affect everyone in different ways, they are the result of the need to secure the future of Chavez Schools and the positive impact we have on scholars’ lives and our city for years to come,” the trustees wrote. “We are committed to offering a premier, public-policy focused secondary school at the modern building that we own, for students in the District of Columbia. We are eager to engage with families, students, staff and the community to shape it into a local and national model.”

Hallmarks of a Chavez education connect to its mission to prepare students for competitive colleges and empower graduates to use public policy as leaders in their communities. This year, Chavez high school scholars are exploring careers through internships at approximately 70 businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Seniors are examining public policy issues ranging from gun violence to homelessness for their capstone thesis projects, and 100 percent of the class is on their way to being accepted to college with more than $3 million in scholarship offers. Four 12th graders recently won prestigious Posse Scholarships – more than any open-enrollment high school in DC – which will pay their full tuition at some of the country’s best colleges.

The Board of Trustees' January 23, 2019, message to the Chavez community is available online in English and Spanish.

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Chavez Schools’ mission is to prepare students to succeed in competitive colleges and to empower them to use public policy to create a more just, free, and equal world. Chavez Schools provides a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, a unique public policy program, and a safe and supportive learning environment with comprehensive support services.

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