To the dismay of many in the community, the District of Columbia's "Beautification Day," a decade-long tradition, has been scrapped. D.C. Public Schools announced an "Adopt-a-School" program to replace the day-long workday which took place during the weekend before school starts.
Michael Alison Chandler of The Washington Post writes that principals in the district were surveyed and decided it was time to stop the "last-minute blitzes."
The principals appreciated having last minute work done in and around their schools, but said they would rather have a sustained support effort instead of just a single day, according to Josephine Robinson, Chief of the Office of Family and Public Engagement. The days before the start of school are some of the busiest of the year, making the event a logistical challenge. They added that the call for help with things like painting, cleaning, and organizing classrooms just wasn't necessary.
This calling in of the troops idea was created when the city's schools were at risk of not opening on time because of maintenance issues and other problems, but the city has invested millions of dollars in organizational and refurbishing efforts over the last ten years.
Those who thought the weekend of volunteering was a success for the schools and the city noted that parents and neighbors were not the only ones who became involved in the event. Local celebrities, such as members of the Washington Capitals hockey team, the D.C. United soccer team, and the D.C. National Guard, along with local business owners and their staffs, pitched in to do whatever needed to be done to improve schools.
Joe Weedon, a Ward 6 representative on the State Board of Education, said there were many individuals and families who enjoyed having the opportunity to help their neighborhood school once a year. He said he thought the long-term help was a great idea, but wondered why schools would give up such a terrific idea to get the community involved early in the school year.
"There's less of a need for parents and others to be slogging away at beautiful schools that are now modernized, or even ones that haven't been modernized yet," Robinson says of the decision to discontinue the yearly clean-up day. "We've created a new opportunity for local businesses, churches, and other organizations to have a more-deliberate, deeper relationship with schools."
The Adopt-a-School program, which is coordinated by the DCPS School Partnerships Team, will match people and organizations interested in helping with individual schools based on the needs of students and shared interests. These partnerships could lead to literacy events, donation drives, career fairs, mentorships, and other activities throughout the school year, according to Andrew Giambrone of Washington CityPaper.
Participants will submit a yearlong partnership plan and will be asked to support at least three school-based events during the school year. They will also be asked to attend meetings with the sponsored school and to coordinate at least one donation drive.
None of the requirements are based on a financial donation, and each partner works out what type of activity they will sponsor. Schools can have multiple partners and parents can participate in scheduled partnerships or can create their own events. Ideally, schools that have not had a history of receiving a high-level of support will benefit from the partnerships and see improvement in academic achievement.
Some schools, reports the Associated Press, are continuing Beautification Day on their own, with logistical support from outside organizations.