Bruce Monroe Elementary: Case Study in Gentrification


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The remnants of Bruce Monroe Elementary after its demolition

In one of her first acts as D.C. Schools Chancellor, Michelle Rhee closed 23 public schools. Bruce Monroe Elementary School wasn’t one of them. The protests from the parents, staff and community prevented the high-achieving school from being a victim of Rhee’s school reform. At least for a while.

By promising to rebuild the school within three years, Rhee successfully maneuvered the students of Bruce Monroe out of their building and into the Park View Elementary School, combining both schools. Bruce Monroe was then levelled. Today, there is a park where the school once stood. The park is likely to be replaced by luxury condos, not a school.

This bothers Ramiro Acosta, a teacher at Bruce Monroe. Standing beside what was once his place of employment, Acosta said, “When you tell me, ‘we’re gonna demolish your building’ and then later on say ‘Oh, I’m sorry we don’t have the money [to build a new one],’ that’s terrible! Because you don’t have neither one, you don’t have your old building and you’re not going to have your new building… I’m not attached to the bricks, I’m attached to what they represent. Bruce Monroe, this building, represents a community — African Americans, Latinos working together [putting aside] the differences between the two communities… African Americans and Latinos are not always communities that work together. They see each other in a different way, [but] we were able to work on that, we were able to put the two communities together.”

Schoolkids at the old Bruce Monroe Elementary

With (additional) massive cuts looming because of the District’s revenue shortfall, the promise to rebuild Bruce Monroe is not likely to be kept. Acosta said, “They don’t have $10 million for a new school… but we have billions and billions to bail out big companies that did wrong? What have we done? Tried to improve our community, tried to teach these students, the future of this country, to be a better person, to grow up to be a good citizen, to get educated, to develop your community, to be more acceptive of diversity.”

Acosta said, “I’m an educator, I’m a teacher, I’m not a politician, I don’t know how to run a campaign. I’m just trying to do my best to move the community and to get our school, as they promised.”

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