Leases For City-Owned School Buildings (And Clarifying Who Owns And Rents What)

This blog post is intended to be a resource: a (growing) list of currently available leases obtained by FOIA for city-owned school buildings as well as a fact check for charter schools leasing and/or owning buildings.

Per this list given to the city council in spring by the DC public charter school board (PCSB) in response to a council question, 39 former DCPS schools are occupied by charter schools. Also according to this list, nine of those buildings were bought by the charter schools in question, with the rest leased from the city.

Here are a few of those leases, which I obtained via FOIA from DGS, the city agency that handles all city-owned buildings:

Cesar Chavez Prep Middle School (Old Bruce school), 770 Kenyon St. NW: lease and amendments

Democracy Prep (Old Congress Heights school), 600 Alabama Ave. SE/3100 MLK Jr. Ave. SE: original leases and subleases

Excel (Birney school), 2501 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE: original leases; sublease to Excel as a DCPS school. (NB: Lee Montessori will also sublet space at Birney for SY19-20–but I am unclear whether I can obtain that lease, as it is between two (publicly funded) private nonprofits not subject to FOIA. The original leaseholder–a spinoff of wealthy and connected charter organization Building Hope–made $200,000 from subletting to Excel in SY18-19, so stands to make much more with both schools in SY19-20. Stay tuned.)

Monument Academy (Gibbs school), 500 19th St. NE: original lease

In its response to the council, PCSB also provided a list of charter schools in “private” facilities. The text accompanying that list makes the claim that charters not in former DCPS buildings are “occupying an additional 64 buildings not owned by DC, often paying higher commercial real estate rents, and paying these rents to commercial landlords rather than to the DC Treasury.”

Yet, 55 of those 64 school buildings are, in fact, not rented from commercial landlords, but either owned by the charter schools in question (24 buildings, or 46% of the 55 and 38% of the 64) OR rented from government agencies, churches, or related nonprofits, per DC real estate records.

Herein is my accounting of ownership for those 55 school buildings:

Academy of Hope 18th Place (owned)
Academy of Hope SE (owned by church)
Appletree Columbia Heights (owned)
Appletree Lincoln Park (owned)
Appletree Oklahoma Ave. (owned by catholic church)
Appletree Douglas Knoll (owned)
Appletree Parklands (owned by US govt.)
BASIS (owned)
Briya Petworth (owned by partner Mary’s Center)
Briya Adams Morgan (owned by partner Mary’s Center)
Carlos Rosario Harvard St. (rented from DC; former DC school bldg.)
Carlos Rosario Sonia Gutierrez (owned by nonprofit created to help Carlos Rosario charter school)
Cedar Tree (owned)
Center City campuses (all owned by catholic churches or nonprofits associated with the Catholic church)
Cesar Chavez Parkside (owned)
Community College Prep “Main” (not clear what this is: the school is renting 2401 MLK SE, which is actually owned by Cedar Tree charter school; the school is also renting a former DCPS school at 3301 Wheeler Rd., owned by DC)
Creative Minds (not clear who they are renting from, but the school is located on land owned by the US government)
DC Prep Anacostia Elementary (owned)
DC Prep Edgewood Elementary (owned)
DC Prep Edgewood Middle (owned)
DC International (owned by DC)
Early Childhood Academy (rented from a baptist church organization; will be moving into a new facility at 885 Barnaby SE in SY19-20, which the school owns)
EL Haynes Georgia Ave. (owned)
Elsie Whitlow Stokes (owned)
Friendship SE (owned)
Friendship Tech Prep (owned)
Harmony (owned by catholic church)
Hope Lamond (owned by an LLC based in Oregon with the name of the charter school)
Hope Tolson (owned by an LLC based in Florida with the name of the charter school)
Howard University Middle School (owned by Howard University)
Ideal Academy (once owned by Ideal and now owned by Friendship charter school, which is taking over the school’s operations starting SY19-20)
KIPP DC Benning (owned)
LAMB (owned by DC)
LAYC Career Academy (owned by the Unification church; same building as YouthBuild)
Lee Montessori (owned by an LLC created out of Building Hope)
Mary McLeod Bethune 16th St. (owned by a presbyterian church)
Richard Wright (owned by an LLC associated with National community church)
Rocketship Rise (owned by an LLC out of Rocketship’s national headquarters in California. In 2015, another LLC–out of the California-based Turner Agassi fund for charter schools–purchased the property, which contained a small house, for $3.3 million. Since Rocketship built its school there, the property’s assessed value is more than $18 million. The May 2019 purchase price was $25.5 million, with the purchase financed by DC revenue bonds issued last year.)
Rocketship Legacy (owned by a Turner Agassi LLC based in California; see above on how ownership of this building will likely play out)
Roots Kennedy St. (owned by LLC based in the home of the school’s founder)
Roots North Capitol (owned by the school’s founder)
Shining Stars Montessori (owned by Howard University)
St. Coletta (owned by DC–but not exactly how the school sees it)
The Next Step (owned)
Two Rivers 4th St. elementary (owned)
Two Rivers 4th St. middle (owned)
Washington Leadership Academy (owned by a nonprofit based at the same address as Building Hope and the beneficiary of city revenue bonds approved last year)
Yu Ying (owned)
YouthBuild (owned by the Unification church; same building as LAYC)

Here are the (few) schools on that list of 64 that are renting from what appears to be an actual commercial landlord:

Breakthrough Montessori
Eagle Academy capitol riverfront (lease ending SY19-20)
Chavez capitol hill (now closed)
City arts (now closed)
Goodwill Excel
Meridian 14th street (owned by a commercial LLC)
Sela (owned by an LLC associated with Douglas Development)
Washington Global (owned by an LLC based in Florida)

(Additionally, the Children’s Guild is owned by an LLC based in DC–which itself is based in a DC property owned by an LLC based in California, so it is unclear if this owner is a corporation or a nonprofit and if it is related to the school itself.)

Here are some totals, extrapolating from the 2019 list given to the city council by PCSB:

103: # of buildings occupied by charter schools in DC per the PCSB accounting given to the council in spring 2019 (64 + 39)

39: # of those buildings that are former DCPS schools

9: # of those former DCPS schools owned by charter schools

64: # of charter buildings listed by PCSB as “private” facilities, where the schools are “often paying higher commercial rents” to “commercial landlords”

55: # of those 64 charter buildings above that are actually not owned by “commercial landlords,” but owned by government agencies, churches, or nonprofits, including the charter schools themselves

24: # of those 55 charter buildings above that are owned by the charter schools themselves (i.e., 38% of all charter buildings that are not former DCPS spaces–24 out of 64–are owned by the schools themselves)

7: # of those 55 charter properties above that are owned by DC (5) or the US government (2)

33: # of charter buildings owned by the schools themselves (9 former DCPS schools plus 24 others). By this accounting, charters in DC own 32% of all charter buildings (i.e., 33 out of 103)–which should only grow, as some charters are soon to expand to new facilities they already own (i.e., Eagle, Early Childhood) or are likely to own those facilities soon (i.e., Rocketship)

(Hmm: Makes you wonder about that propaganda concerning charter waitlists and the oft-stated desire for more DCPS buildings . . . .)

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