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Some DC schools lack librarians, the Council may change that

Of the 36 DCPS schools that have either no librarian or only a part-time one, 17 of them are in communities that are in Wards 7 or 8.
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Public library bookshelf

WASHINGTON — CORRECTION: A previous version of this story erroneously reported that Aiton Elementary School had no librarian. It does have a part-time librarian. 

Some D.C. Public Schools do not have librarians. A new proposal from a D.C. Councilmember could change that.

Ward 4 D.C. Councilmember Janeese Lewis George has proposed a budget amendment that would reallocate $3.25 million from the DCPS enrollment reserve toward hiring full-time librarians in schools that do not have them.

According to DCPS, 25 of its schools have no full-time or part-time librarians. While six of those schools have either a library or technology aide.

Lewis George said DCPS provided information to the D.C. Council that showed there are another 11 D.C. schools that only have a part-time librarian. Of the 36 DCPS schools that have either no librarian or only a part-time one, 17 of them are in communities that are in Wards 7 or 8.

Lewis George said having librarians in every D.C. school could help address the literacy gap.

“Librarians are essential for helping students learn and succeed, especially Black and Brown students,” she said. “And, students considered at risk, who have fallen even further behind during this pandemic.”

DCPS says, under the current budget model, all schools receive allocations to hire library staff. Further, the amount of funding for a school librarian position is allocated to every school based on its projected enrollment.

However, Lewis George says it is ultimately up to individual schools as to how they choose to spend their money. She said some schools have decided they don’t have the funding needed to keep a librarian while others exchange the position out for other roles in the school building.

“What we're really saying to DCPS is that we need to make librarians a permanent position, which it used to be,” Lewis George said.

A spokesperson for DCPS told WUSA9 the school system is committed to providing a robust learning environment for all students, including access to literacy resources.

DCPS also pointed out that DCPS principals have budgeted more for librarians in the fiscal year 2022 than in fiscal year 2021.

“Our allocation model and flexibility levels for librarians have remained consistent over the past several years,” a DCPS statement reads. “Our flexibility levels are rooted in the belief that principals are trusted partners who know their local communities best. Principals work in collaboration with their Local School Advisory Teams to determine how best to allocate certain positions tailored to their school needs.   

But DCPS says it is also concerned about maintaining its enrollment reserve funding during a year where enrollment is less predictable due to the pandemic. The school system said its fiscal year 2022 budget currently allocates $6.7 million to its enrollment reserve fund. It says those funds are necessary to ensure that schools are able to secure additional staff should their enrollment levels exceed projections.

Council voted on the new budget, which included Lewis George's proposal, Tuesday. The budget was unanimously passed by Council.

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