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In a recent broadcast of “This American Life” Burroughs Elementary School parent Maria Jones, interviewed by journalist Jon Jeter, calls Mayor Adrian M. Fenty‘s proposal to close down 23 district schools a “land grab.” In making her point, Jones mentions two former school buildings sold to developers and converted into swank condos: Pierce School (now Pierce School Lofts) and Lovejoy School (now Lovejoy Lofts).

She’s not crazy. Quite a few other ritzy apartment buildings have origins as DCPS properties. Bryant School Lofts, Lennox School Condos, Berret School Lofts, and Carbery School Lofts, for example.

When asked whether the District was shutting down schools in order to sell public land to hungry developers, D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee‘s spokesperson, Mafara Hobson, responded that the claim was “absolutely not true.” “There are a number of rumors circulating, but parents and residents should know that there are no immediate plans for the school buildings.” Hobson added there would be a “separate public process to determine alternate uses for the buildings.”

Contacted on this matter, Jones counters that “immediate plans” is the key phrase. “They’ll let them[the buildings] sit there for a few years, then either sell them to developers or give them over to charters. It all points towards privatization,” she says. Jones describes the school closures as a “corporate heist” and warns that in the District, “all our public property is being threatened, period.”

Though the school her daughter attends was recently taken off of the administration’s “hit list”, Jones said that she’ll continue to work against the closures.

“Even my little daughter knows that school reform does not mean closing buildings.”

—-Rend Smith