School Without Walls and Francis-Stevens principal defends potential merger

Media Credit: The Francis-Stevens Education Campus in 2012. Hatchet File Photo

Francis Stevens Education Campus in 2012. Hatchet File Photo

This post was written by Hatchet reporters Bridget Hughes and Rachael Gerendasy.

A petition pushing back against a potential merger of two neighborhood schools topped 1,000 signatures this week and prompted a meeting with the school’s principal.

Francis Stevens Education Campus in 2012. Hatchet File Photo
Francis Stevens Education Campus in 2012. Hatchet File Photo

Francis-Stevens Education Campus, an elementary school on N Street, was saved from closure in 2012 after it was paired with School Without Walls high school. Two years later, the schools share a principal and some faculty as well as an auditorium, athletic fields and a gymnasium. No students at School Without Walls currently take classes at Francis-Stevens.

Richard Trogisch, who serves as the shared principal for the two schools, held a meeting with parents at School Without Walls on Wednesday, and tensions flared as parents debated what path the two schools should take next.

The petition , created about two weeks ago, demands separate principals and budgets for the two schools, a “clear, coherent and workable plan” for the merger if it does occur and a plan to ensure that no students from School Without Walls will take classes at Francis-Stevens.

Trogisch said Wednesday no decision about fulling merging the two schools would be made without input from parents, and that any merger would likely not happen for three years since a plan for combining the two schools has not been presented.

“There will not be a change in education or the ability of students to get into schools they want to,” Trogisch said.

School Without Walls has 585 students currently enrolled, far more than its capacity of 450. Trogisch said about a dozen students from School Without Walls have completed internships at Francis Stevens and said sharing faculty saves about $300,000.

But parents at the meeting slammed Trogisch for ignoring their concerns and said D.C. Public Schools have not adequately communicated plans for the school or its budget.

“When the budgets are merged, there is no transparency. It’s not fair to the parents, the students, or the teachers of either school,” said Sara Parker, a School Without Walls parent. “No one from [D.C. Public Schools] is communicating. We would all appreciate communication, transparency and a plan.”

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