Yesterday, the Hyde-Addison School Improvement Team (which GM is a member) as well as representatives of the PTA and the Citizens Association of Georgetown wrote a letter to the Mayor, the schools Chancellor, several councilmembers, and other officials demanding that the schools construction proceed this June and that the Duke Ellington Field or another similarly situated location be used for the swing space. The letter is reprinted below.
If you care about Hyde-Addison and want to add your name to the chorus calling for a reconsideration of the decision to delay and use the Meyer school as swing space, please consider reaching out to these government officials and letting them know:
Dear Mayor Bowser, Chancellor Henderson, Councilman Evans, Councilman Grosso, Commissioner Jones, Commissioner Lewis and Dr. Beers,
We, Hyde-Addison parents, parent leaders and school supporters, are writing to you on the matter of the school’s long planned modernization and expansion project. We are appealing to you and strongly requesting that the city move ahead as it committed and begin construction on our Addition project this June 2016 using the Duke Ellington School for the Arts (“DESA”) field or similar optimal local location for the swing space.
On Friday, March 11th, D.C. Public Schools (“DCPS”) and D.C. Department of General Services (“DGS”) staff presented a long overdue update to the school community. Although the update was appreciated, the news it delivered blindsided the community. Despite assurances throughout the past year that construction would begin this spring, the city is now stating that the construction will be delayed once again. Worse, the staff members stated that the DESA field is not available and that no similar location could be identified. As a result, the representatives stated, the school will be assigned to Meyer school, a former school building three miles from the Hyde-Addison campus. It should go without saying that this announcement was met with shock and outrage. Regrettably, the DCPS and DGS staff could not fully explain the reasoning for this proposal, nor could they satisfactorily answer our parents’ many questions.
Further Delay is Not Acceptable
This project has already been delayed multiple years. After thousands of hours of volunteer time, millions of dollars of city money spent on architects and planners and a 14-month effort to gain approval from the Old Georgetown Board and US Commission on Fine Arts, the project was set to move ahead this spring. After jumping so many hurdles over and over, the possibility of an actual groundbreaking this June became nearly tangible. But a last minute decision last December from DGS that the students could not stay on campus during the construction has thrown the entire project into disarray. It is beyond belief that after overcoming so many obstacles this one problem can derail the project to such an extent.
We believe that there are no more excuses. Construction must begin this June 2016. If not on the expansion itself, there is no reason why work on the WASA sewer pipe, the Addison classrooms and other critical items cannot move forward. This will shorten the overall timeline for the main construction and increase the probability the school will require only one year for the swing space. In addition, this work will provide immediate benefits to the students for the 2016-17 school year, and beyond.
The City Must Reconsider its Decision to Forgo Using the DESA Field as Swing Space
The DESA field is the optimal location for the Hyde-Addison swing space and has been previously identified by the Hyde-Addison community and DGS as the preferred option. This is indisputable. It is a DCPS-owned property that has no DCPS-designated uses planned for the 2016-17 school year. And it is very likely—given the delays that have beset the DESA renovations—that it will continue to have no DCPS-designated uses into the 2017-18 school year. It is unconscionable for DCPS to refuse to use this property for Hyde-Addison swing space while failing to provide any valid explanation.
At the March 11, 2016 meeting, DGS staff stated that the primary reason the field was not being used was complaints from the surrounding Burleith neighborhood. It cannot be stated strongly enough that this is not a valid reason to forgo using the field. The interest of DCPS school children far exceed the interests of nearby residents when it comes to the disposition of a DCPS asset. It is important to consider the interests of the neighbors when making plans for DCPS properties, but to give the neighbors veto power over such a crucial project is an abdication of duty on the part of DCPS. DCPS and DGS must re-evaluate this flawed decision with this squarely in mind.
The City Must Identify Swing Locations Much Closer to Hyde Addison Zone
If after re-evaluating the decision over the DESA field DCPS and DGS still forgo its use, the staff must identify a location in or around the Hyde-Addison zone. It is clear under the Safe Routes policy of DCPS that enabling and encouraging students to walk or bike to school is paramount to school planning. Locating an elementary school three miles from its designated zone for up to two years is diametrically opposed to this stated policy.
Locating the Hyde-Addison swing space at such a distance will have a variety of negative consequences:
- It will encourage unnecessary auto travel during peak commuting hours
- It will require busing students across town in the middle of rush hour
- This busing will significantly impact the students’ educational and family time, as several hours will be spent each week simply moving the children from the pick-up spot to the school and back
- Daily interactions between the parents and teachers and staff members will be greatly reduced
The city must reconsider its preference for the Meyer school location. This location was decided upon with zero input from the Hyde-Addison community. It is starkly less optimal than the DESA field, which was clearly identified by the community as the preferred option. And there is a not insubstantial risk that DESA, which is currently using the Meyer school, will not be able to vacate by the 2017-18 school year due to continuing construction delays at their own improvement project.
If the DESA field is not available after reconsideration, the city must take a fresh look at more proximate locations such as the Hardy MS or Francis-Stevens EC.
We Ask the Decision Makers to Visit with the Community
Dr. Beers, it is our understanding that you are the key decision maker on the matter of the swing. We invite you to come to our campus to meet with our Principal and parent leaders to have the discussion about our swing options we were promised back in December but did not receive. With a transparent, constructive conversation, we are confident together we can brainstorm any lingering questions or obstacles and designate the optimal swing location for 2016-2017. Furthermore, we believe that we can demonstrate to you the critical need to begin construction this June on the WASA sewer pipe and the other critical projects discussed above.
The City has been promising our community this project since 2012. We’ve already been delayed three times. Our children, families and staff cannot accept another delay. Our children desperately need the school to move forward into it’s full potential. Our children, families and neighborhood are counting on you to allow DCPS to do even better for our children.
Please let us know how we can support you in making our Hyde-Addison construction project begin in June 2016.
Christopher Mathews, Hyde-Addison future parent and SIT member
Christine Churchill, Hyde-Addison parent and SIT member
John Lever, Hyde-Addison parent and SIT member
Antonio Vintro, Hyde-Addison parent and SIT member
Peter Wallsten, Hyde-Addison parent and LSAT chair
Paul Kihn, Hyde-Addison parent, LSAT member and PTA member
Sara Macauley, Hyde-Addison parent and LSAT member
Maan Sacdalan, Hyde-Addison parent and PTA president
Stacey Bosshardt, Hyde-Addison parent
Richard Ehrenburg, Hyde-Addison parent
Denise Mendelsohn, Hyde-Addison parent
Zachary Mendelsohn, Hyde-Addison parent
Andrea Owen, Hyde-Addison parent
Caroline Simonds Pessey, Hyde-Addison parent
Jean-Baptiste Pessey, Hyde-Addison parent
Amber Petry, Hyde-Addison parent
Peter Tynan, Hyde-Addison parent
Amy West, Hyde-Addison parent
Josh West, Hyde-Addison parent
Laura Yost, Hyde-Addison parent
Kyle Yost, Hyde-Addison parent