Next week, on January 12, DCPS will hold two public meetings on school renovations, one at Maury Elementary and one at Jefferson Academy middle school.
Besides being about the long-delayed renovations of both schools, the meetings have a lot more in common:
Both start at 6 pm.
Both are in Ward 6.
Both will happen less than two miles apart.
Both concern Capitol Hill schools.
Both have overlapping constituencies and neighborhood buy-in.
(Hey: Was that breeze the ghost of Rodney Dangerfield?)
As a Ward 6 resident for a quarter century, I can attest that my neck of the DC woods is like one of those high-living folks who, when dead, everyone is surprised to learn was a beat away from bankruptcy.
Almost a year ago, for instance, the 21st Century School Fund presented data on DCPS capital expenditures from 1998 through 2015 by ward. Expenditures for Ward 6 DCPS school facilities were the lowest in the city, both as measured in costs per square foot as well as per attending student.
And yet, the other month, the City Paper ran a story on how just three DC neighborhoods–NOMA, southwest, and Navy Yard–have experienced 45% of the new growth in residential building in the entire city in 2016.
All three neighborhoods are in Ward 6.
So it is that in that same bustling ward with a lot of spiffy new buildings, including a spiffy new REI (which boasts homeless people living in not-so-spiffy tents underneath the adjacent train overpass, just blocks from the spiffy, almost-new DCPS headquarters), it is just too much to ask that residents have two dedicated discussions on two separate days about school planning in the ward and its long-deferred school renovations.
As it is, the deferred renovation of Maury Elementary could potentially change the entire landscape of DCPS on Capitol Hill and Ward 6. The school is overcapacity now, and only one of the two renovation plans being floated would expand it enough to accommodate the entirety of its in-bounds population. And neither plan would leave it with adequate outdoor space.
As a result of this (lack of) planning, some have floated the school banding together with another Capitol Hill elementary (Miner) or even outsourcing part of Maury’s in-bounds population to another DCPS site in the neighborhood (Eliot-Hine).
The meeting for Jefferson, meanwhile, not only would discuss short-term facilities fixes there, but also plans for the modernization of the building (now a decade past its first start date) as well as Jefferson’s feeder system, decimated by the 4th to 5th grade mismatch between charter and DCPS middle schools.
Recall that the deputy mayor for education has said that she does not know what to do about that mismatch—and that the former DCPS chancellor has said that she did not know what to do about parents electing to avoid Jefferson.
Perhaps emblematic of such civic regard, the DCPS letter announcing the Jefferson meeting got the feeder schools into Jefferson wrong.
That letter also noted that the DCPS teams for facility planning and design and strategic school planning, along with DGS, would be running the Jefferson meeting—which makes me wonder who at either agency is left to run Maury’s meeting at the same time on the same day concerning the same DCPS feeder systems and constituencies?
But we have brick sidewalks in Ward 6!
That is, our city has money to jackhammer perfectly good concrete sidewalks on Capitol Hill and Ward 6 to put in brick sidewalks, while the by right public school buildings those sidewalks lead to languish for decades.
So: Maybe Ward 6 school advocates should get the reliable political donors at sidewalk brick-laying company Fort Myer to send a few of those dollars to our Ward 6 DCPS schools–and thereby maybe attract the attention of city officials for those same schools?
Now, there’s some new thinking for the new year.