Letter to DC Council: Don’t Give Up Old Hardy

Dear Council Members:

We, the Ward 3-Wilson Feeder Education Network (W3EdNet), ask that you oppose the Old Hardy School Disposition and Lease Approval Emergency Declaration Resolution of 2019.  If approved, this “emergency resolution” would dispose of “the old Hardy School” building on Foxhall Road without following the District’s own processes.  Instead we ask that the Council follow regular order, and for your support in reopening the school as a DC public school.

DCPS Schools in the Wilson Feeder Pattern Are Overcrowded… and Will Become More Crowded

In May 2017, DCPS convened the Community Working Group on Overcrowding (CWG) to study the issue of overcrowding in schools in the Wilson High School feeder pattern and to advise DC Public Schools (DCPS) on possible solutions.* DCPS recently released a Summary Report with the group’s findings. In short,

  • Crowding exists throughout the Wilson feeder pattern;
  • Enrollment has grown by 43% since 2008;
  • Crowding is only expected to get worse, growing by another 25% in the next ten years.

The CWG is not the only report to reach this conclusion. In November 2018, the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) released a Master Facilities Plan that projected student enrollment in the Wilson feeder pyramid total will grow from 10,246 students today to 12,833 in 2028, with every elementary and middle school’s enrollment rising at least 25%. The Master Facilities Plan concludes: “At the ward level, DCPS schools in Wards 2 and 3 are overcrowded now and continue to be in five and ten years” and “Wards 2 and 3 will experience a greater deficit of space in five and ten years than they already experience.”

The Primary Solution to Overcrowding is More Schools

The Community Working Group explored numerous possible programs and policies that might relieve overcrowding, with parents, educators, and community members and worked closely with DCPS and DME staff to assess the various ideas. After examining many options to address overcrowding, the CWG came to the conclusion that “While it was clear that one strategy alone would not address the current or future overcapacity challenges facing schools in the Wilson High School feeder pattern… The option that the group felt would most effectively and equitably address overcrowding long-term was additional capacity and square footage in the feeder pattern.”

The Old Hardy School – a Fiscally Responsible Solution to Overcrowding in the Wilson Feeder Pattern

Due to the limited number of solutions to overcrowding in the feeder pattern we believe that there is a compelling and undeniable case for reopening the old Hardy School as a public school. The old Hardy School site is a unique asset because

  • It is one of the largest city-owned contiguous sites within the Wilson feeder boundaries; and
  • The location offers flexibility for virtually any type of public school, and we have been unable to locate any other city-owned site within the Wilson feeder boundaries that would be as ideally suited for a public school. The DME’s Master Facility Plan affirms the lack of available publicly-owned buildings or sites in Ward 3.

Given the need for additional schools in the Wilson Feeder pattern, the old Hardy School is a fiscally responsible solution.  Not using it for a public school would mean the city would have spend precious dollars to purchase and construct a school on land that is currently privately owned.  With many other schools in need of modernizations and renovations, spending resources that would otherwise not be needed would be an insult to the rest of the city.  The building was kept in public ownership in case it might need to be reopened some day; some day is now.

We realize that the site is currently leased by a private school that specializes in students with learning differences, and we are sensitive to the importance of educating students with special needs.  However, in recent years DCPS has made tremendous strides in educating children with special needs in-house, and alleviating crowding in our public schools through, in part, returning the Old Hardy School to public use will benefit far more DC students.

This subject has taken on increased urgency because this lease agreement would remove the property from public control for the next 50 years.  The current lease for the building extends through December 2023, so the Mayor and the Council have no justification to declare an emergency or to not follow regular order.  We believe that there is no justification for a surplus declaration, and that any use other than as a public school would be fiscally and socially irresponsible.

 

Thank you,

Brian Doyle & Melody Molinoff

The Ward 3 – Wilson Feeder Education Network

 

Ruth Wattenberg for Ward 3 School Board 2014

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