Archive for the ‘Schools’ category

New Cafeteria for Park View School on Track for Fall 2018

April 27, 2017

At the April 26, 2017, School Improvement Team (SIT) meeting for the Bruce-Monroe @ Park View Elementary School, the Department of General Services announced the architects, builders, and timeline for the new cafeteria project. The project is aiming to break ground in the winter of 2017 and be completed by August 2018, in time for the new academic year. The architect chosen is Shinberg Levinas with Winmar Construction chosen as the general contractor.

The scope of the project includes a full kitchen, a larger dining space, a new loading zone, and a regrading of the parking lot at the rear of the building along Newton Place. Leading up to construction, the design team will be developing the plans and getting permits. During construction, there will be times when there will be no off street parking for the school’s teachers. No plan was shared at the SIT meeting on what, if any, accommodations would be made for teachers during the reconstruction of the parking lot. Another issue that was raised was the configuration and condition of the alley behind the school, which is currently very narrow and difficult for school deliveries and regular trash collection.

The estimated schedule for the project is below. The entire slide deck from the meeting and additional information and updates are/will be available at the Bruce Monroe @ Park View school modernization Web page.

Gardeners! Mark Your Calendars for Mighty Greens’ Spring Seedling Sale

April 10, 2017

City Blossoms — a nonprofit dedicated to fostering healthy communities by developing creative, kid-driven green spaces and innovative resources — announced an upcoming seedling sale called Mighty Greens that local gardeners may want to check out. Mighty Greens is a youth-led cooperative business run by students from Cardozo Education Campus and Eastern Senior High School. Mighty Greens combines garden-education with business skills to prepare students for possible next-level careers and job-readiness. Students maintain garden spaces, grow seedlings and produce added-value products, then selling those products and produce back to their communities. There is an information sheet about Mighty Greens  below.

Mighty Greens is hosting an upcoming seedling sale and weekly farmer’s market in our neighborhood! All of the money they earn through sales goes back into their pockets and into maintaining and growing their business. They are currently growing spring (kale, collards, swiss chard, lettuce), summer (peppers, tomatoes, basil, cilantro) and flower (calendula, marigolds, zinnias) seedlings.

Spring Seedling Sale:

  • Saturday April 15th (10-1pm) at the Girard Children’s Community Garden (1480 Girard Street, NW)

The students at Cardozo Education Campus will also be holding a weekly farmer’s market, selling both seedlings and fresh produce:

  • Wednesday April 26th–Wednesday May 31st (3:30-5:30pm) at Cardozo Education Campus (corner of 13th and Clifton)

This is a great opportunity to get a start on your annual gardening and support our local students.


Council Asks DGS to Study & Recommend Options for Community Use of Schools

January 25, 2017

school-use-billOn January 10, 2017, Councilmember Charles Allen — along with Councilmembers Robert White, Anita Bonds, and DAvid Grosso — introduced a bill to require the Department of General Services (DGS) to convene a task force to identify barriers to and develop recommendations for community use of public school facilities and ot submit those recommendations to the Council. The Task Force must transmit a report of its work and findings to the Council by March 1, 2018.

In reading through the bill, some of the items requested of DGS includes identifying existing barriers to community use of school buildings, determining costs for community use of school buildings, and developing recommendations for a District-wide policy to allow for community use of school buildings. The report’s focus is to be on policies and practices for increasing community use of school facilities for both organized and casual recreation, with an emphasis on promoting healthy activity.

While I’m encourage by this effort and can support its goals, I don’t feel it is going far enough. Based on messages I’ve read on area listservs over the last few years, this appears to be in response — in part — to residents seeking access to swimming pools (such as the one at Dunbar High School), gymnasiums, and other recreation focused areas of new and existing schools. I think such an approach is too narrow and presumes a definition of recreation that is physical in nature. For me, recreation needs to be defined more liberally and broadly, and increasing community access to school facilities for any purpose that builds a stronger community out to be the goal.

One issue that is particularly lacking in many neighborhoods is available community meeting space, where neighbors can come together over local issues and get to know each other as part of the process.  With this in mind, I’ll be reviewing the types of spaces available in some of our area schools, and coming up with a list of recommendations to be considered by the task force as they work on their report for the Council.


Park View School Cafeteria Replacement Project Moving Forward

November 21, 2016

At a School Improvement Team meeting held on November 2nd (minutes here), it was confirmed that $11.2M has been dedicated to replace and upgrade the cafeteria at the Bruce Monroe @ Park View Elementary School. The project was delayed in part due to a lot of turnover at the Department of General Services, both on the procurement and project management side. As a result, DGS has decided to execute in a more efficient way — Design-Build. This is when the architect and construction company are brought on together, which allows the design, planning, pricing, permitting, and construction to move quicker. The cafeteria kitchen expansion project is expected to increase the dining area for students and cooking space for staff.

At the time of this posting, the RFP had not been issued, but is expected to be issued any day. Interested neighbors can check the  Bruce Monroe @ Park View School Modernization Web page for updates.

NRHP Park View School(The Park View elementary school at 3560 Warder Street, NW)

Additional Funds Dedicated to Modernize Bruce-Monroe @ Park View School Cafeteria

March 25, 2016

Yesterday, the Bruce-Monroe @ Park View School Improvement Team (SIT) was informed that Mayor Bowser had released the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for Fiscal Years 2017-2022 and that there has been a recommended change to the project budget for the school. Currently, the school has $5.7M to put towards renovating the cafeteria, but the estimates to do so exceed that amount. In the CIP, the budget has increased by $5.5M in FY17 with the goal of modernizing and expanding the kitchen and cafeteria. More details will be forthcoming at the April SIT meeting, but this is definitely good news.

NRHP Park View School(The Bruce-Monroe at Park View School now has funding for its cafeteria modernization project.)

More Improvements Headed for Park View School

January 21, 2016
Bruce-Monroe @ Park View Elementary, located on Warder Street.

Bruce-Monroe @ Park View Elementary, located on Warder Street.

A core group of School Improvement Team members met at the Bruce-Monroe @ Park View school last night to begin discussing additional improvements to the school. Among those in attendance were teachers and school administrators, representatives from DCPS and DGS, Councilmember Nadeau, Commissioner Boese, and a few parents. The primary purpose of the meeting was to set expectations for future meetings and to begin the dialogue to determine what improvements should be made.

The school currently has a budget of roughly $5.7 Million  to put towards design and construction. There will also be a River Smart Grant available in 2017, though the amount is not yet known but probably won’t be for more than around one to two hundred thousand dollars.

While a project high on the priority list for the school is a renovated cafeteria and parking lot, it was shared that the money needed for that project would be around $10 Million. To begin the conversation, Patrick Davis of the DC Public Schools shared a list of potential projects with the group (below).


As part of the discussion, it was noted that there is a strong desire to finish the modernization of the school, and that the cafeteria is a high priority. The homework given to DCPS prior to the next SIT meeting is to compile a complete list of projects required to consider the Park View School building as fully modernized, along with cost estimates for those projects. While the SIT currently needs to make a decision for the use of the $5.7M, it is also interested in knowing what funding is needed to finish the modernization. The first phase of modernizing the building was completed in Summer 2012.

Georgia Avenue Portion of Bruce Monroe Site Originally Private Land, Needed for Build First School Plan in 1970

December 30, 2015

In the current discussion about using a portion of the former Bruce-Monroe Elementary School site as a Build First site for the  redevelopment of Park Morton, one of the arguments that’s been used by those not supporting this solution is that public land should not be given to a private developer. Yet, in an interesting historical twist, the reason for the large size of the former school site that exists today is that the Bruce-Monroe School required a Build First site for its construction, and the solution was to take the private property along Georgia Avenue between Columbia Road and Irving Street by eminent domain in order to create that school. From this perspective, with the school now gone, using the land along Georgia Avenue for a non-public purpose would be restoring it to its use prior to 1970.

This use of eminent domain for new schools was not a unique approach in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Unlike the last decade, during the 1960s DC schools were struggling with over enrollment. Rather than renovate and enlarge old school buildings which is the approach we use today, new schools were often built adjacent to existing schools, and upon completion, the old schools were razed. In Ward 1, this was not only the case with the old Monroe School and the Bruce-Monroe School that replaced it, but it was also the case with the old Morgan School in Adams Morgan which was replace by the Marie H. Reed Learning Center.

The old Monroe School on Columbia Road.

The old Monroe School on Columbia Road.

Discussions to replace the old Monroe School date to the mid-1960s. President Johnson was particularly interested in funding DC schools, though would often see his proposed budget cut by Congress or the District Commissioners. In 1966, it was reported that the funding for a new building to replace the Monroe and Bruce schools had been cut from the budget.

This detail from the 1968 Baist's Real Estate Atlas shows that the Georgia Avenue frontage of the Bruce Monroe site was originally private property with commercial buildings.

This detail from the 1968 Baist’s Real Estate Atlas shows that the Georgia Avenue frontage of the Bruce Monroe site was originally private property with commercial buildings.

1969 was a crucial year for the new Bruce-Monroe school. It was listed as one of 15 new schools that the school system was seeking funding for at the beginning of the year, yet the District School Board decided in February to chop $8 million from its $55 million request resulting in plans for Bruce-Monroe to be shelved. This decision was quickly reversed on April 1st as the $8 million was restored to the original budget request … and the request was approved by the District City Council on April 3rd. However, the total District budget request for 1970 was $728.2 million and President Johnson had already announced a budget of $702 million for the District in January. Perhaps in partial response to this, the school board once again reversed itself on April 25th and removed funding for the new Bruce-Monroe School.

Despite the back and forth funding drama unfolding in April 1969, the project appears to have gotten a delayed approval after a meeting with the community to discuss the proposed replacement of the Monroe School held at the end of May. Over a year later, in September 1970, notices began to appear in the Washington Evening Star announcing the government’s intent to take the private property abutting the school on Georgia Avenue to use for municipal purposes — that being, a new school. The Department of General Services began taking sealed bids on April 23, 1971 with a closing date of May 24th.

Ground was broken on the new school on October 5, 1971, and the $4 million school was completed and ready to serve the community in the fall of 1973. Upon its completion, the old Monroe School was razed save for the old auditorium which was connected to the new school by a causeway.

Bruce Monroe ground breaking(Lisa Nix (left) and Jonathan Brooks (right) break ground for the new Bruce Monroe, October 5, 1971).

Creative Minds International Public Charter School Planning Move to Old Soldiers’ Home

February 10, 2015

Yesterday, February 9th, Congresswoman Norton’s Office announced that she was a featured speaking at the lease signing ceremony at the Armed Forces Retirement Home with Creative Minds International Public Charter School (CMI). CMI is currently located at 3224 16th Street, NW. Beginning in the 2015-2016 school year, CMI will move to the AFRH’s Sherman Building.

Norton to Commemorate Opening of Creative Minds International Public Charter School at Armed Forces Retirement Home, Today

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today will speak at the lease signing ceremony marking a partnership between the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH), a federal institution, and Creative Minds International Public Charter School (CMI) at the Armed Forces Retirement Home Sherman Building South (140 Rock Creek Church Rd. NW) at 2:00 p.m.  Norton will be joined by CMI Founder/Head of School Dr. Golnar Abedin, D.C. Public Charter School Board Executive Director Scott Pearson, AFRH Chief Operating Officer Steven McManus, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense-Military Community and Family Policy Rosemary Williams, and a host of parents and friends.

Sherman Building.

Sherman Building.

In December, Norton met with AFHR and requested that AFRH submit its notification of the lease to Congress, as required by law, by the start of January so that CMI could sign the lease this month and open in time for the start of the school year.  Norton helped secure $15 million for D.C. Public Charter Schools in the fiscal year 2015 appropriations bill.

“The partnership between CMI and AFRH is not only innovative but increasingly necessary in a city where land is scarce and the unoccupied space is often on federal land,” Norton said.  “We appreciate how hard CMI and AFRH have worked together so that hundreds of students will have the opportunity to learn and grow in an excellent charter school surrounded by green space.”

“The Creative Minds International Public Charter School community is enthusiastic about our upcoming move this August to the historic Sherman Building, on the beautiful grounds of the AFRH campus,” Abedin said.  “We look forward to growing a long-term partnership with AFRH, and are grateful for this wonderful opportunity.”

“This new space will be a big improvement to the learning environment of the 250 students that will attend Creative Minds this fall,” Pearson said.  “It is particularly exciting that they will be in a facility close to where so many of our nation’s retired veterans live.”

“We are very pleased that Creative Minds International Public Charter School will be opening in the fall of 2015,” McManus said.  “This will be a wonderful partnership for many years to come, and this partnership will assist AFRH in continuing to grow ties with the Washington, D.C. community.”

The school will lease 32,000 sq. ft. of space for 16 classrooms at AFRH in its North Sherman and Annex buildings.  Beginning this fall, 250 CMI students will attend classes at the AFRH campus.

Talking Education with Laura Wilson Phelan

February 2, 2015

Yesterday our Ward 1 representative to the State Board of Education, Laura Wilson Phelan, hosted a community meeting to discuss education priorities with residents. The meeting was held at Bloombars on 11th Street and began at 3 p.m.

Laura Wilson Phelan(Laura talking to neighbors during the meeting)

There were about 15 or so residents at the meeting, including ANC Commissioners Kent Boese (1A08), Rashida Brown (1A10), and Frank Agbro (1D01).  The meeting began with Wilson Phelan having each attendee write their most pressing educational concern on a piece of paper, which was then posted so that all could read what everyone had written. Based on these ideas, there were three central themes that arose.

  • Organizational and physical challenges,
  • Arts and education; and,
  • Language immersion education.

After recognizing these areas of interest, the meeting members broke out into separate groups to discuss 1 and 3 year goals within each and then reported back to the whole.

It was a very interesting meeting with a lot of good ideas. Among the topics shared where concerns about disparities between public and charter schools, the need to re-integrate communities with their local public schools, the value of the arts to education, and the need for more language immersion schools and their value to education as a whole.

Along the lines of building stronger community-school relationships, I shared how valuable it is to find opportunities for each group to interact with the other to build a strong community-wide advocacy group for each school. While this can be done by identifying community and school leaders who regularly meet, I believe there is also value in developing shared programs such as community plays, concerts, or festivals where those living in the neighborhood get to experience and share in the successes of local schools and know first hand both the progress and challenges that schools are facing.

While time didn’t allow for drilling deeply into the issues raised, it was an excellent beginning for Wilson Phelan. She set a strong precedent for what I’m sure will be a sustained collaborative approach to finding opportunities to advance education in D.C.

Laura Wilson Phelan meeting


Best Bird Houses in Columbia Heights (1921)

January 22, 2015

Wilson Normal bird houses

In revisiting the photo collections at the Library of Congress, I found the gem above. The photograph was taken on the afternoon of January 20, 1921, and shows a member from the American Forestry Association with children who were awarded blue ribbons for building  bird houses. The photo captures the event located on the western side of the Wilson Normal School. Today, the school is known as the Carlos Rosario public charter school and the location where the children are standing is part of the parking lot.

The construction of bird houses by the students was part of the week-long tree work exhibition at the Wilson Normal School which opened on Monday, January 17th, and ended on Friday, January 21st. While the exhibition had a large educational focus, the general public were encouraged to participate. In additional to the birdhouses and other pupil activities, the event included exhibits of trees, their diseases, insect destroyers, furniture of all kinds and essays on tree values.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the American Forestry Association was engaged in a nationwide referendum to determine what tree best represented America. Selecting the right tree was difficult. President Wilson weighed in during the survey stating that he was “quite unable to choose amongst the infinite variety and richness of American forests.”

The overwhelming result of the referendum among Washington school children was that the national tree should be the oak. D.C. children cast 7,004 votes for the oak – nearly twice as many as cast for the nearest competitor, the elm.

The entire vote breakdown in D.C. from school children in the 1921 American Forestry Association referendum follows:

  • Oak, 7,004;
  • Elm, 3,765;
  • Pine, 1,355;
  • Sugar maple, 1,392;
  • Apple, 1,145;
  • Hickory, 1,060;
  • Dogwood, 619;
  • Tulip, 328;
  • Walnut, 273;
  • Sycamore, 108; and,
  • Various others, 36.

Currently, the national tree of the United States is the Oak, which was chosen in 2004.

National Tree ballot

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