Many Ward 5 residents oppose awarding a former DCPS building to a charter school, saying there are already enough charter schools in the area. But under existing law, charters will have the first opportunity to bid on the property.
The former Alice and Ernestine Shaed Elementary School. All photos by the author.
At a crowded public hearing Wednesday evening, some Edgewood residents urged that the now-closed Shaed Elementary School be developed into a recreation center. With so many charter schools in the area already, they said a recreation center would be of more use to the community than another school. But district regulations give charters the first opportunity to bid on the property, which DC officials say is too large for a recreation center anyway.
Indeed, there are already 7 charter schools in this area of Ward 5.
The hearing took place in the very hot and humid field house of the existing Edgewood Recreation Center, at 300 Evarts Street NE. Several people at the meeting noted that the small field house is clearly inadequate to meet the needs of the neighborhood.
Officials from the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), the Department of General Services (DGS), and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education were on hand to explain the decision to surplus Shaed ES, which is adjacent to the recreation center, and explain the process for its redevelopment. DCPS closed Shaed at the end of the 2011 school year because of low enrollment.
Bids for Shaed Elementary from “eligible applicants” are due August 30. The District has defined “eligible applicants” as existing charter schools or schools that have received conditional approval for their charter applications.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Debbie Smith-Steiner (5E01) and several other community representatives urged that Shaed be redeveloped as a community recreation center. But DPR Director Jesus Aguirre responded that Shaed, a 70,000-square-foot facility, is much too large to be converted into a recreation center.
Aguirre did assure residents that the District would consider their requests for a new recreation center during the next round of budget negotiations. He distributed printed surveys and encouraged residents to submit their concerns through an online survey or send them to email@example.com.
Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who briefly attended the meeting, told community members that the government intends to maintain some control over the recreational area around the footprint of the Shaed building whether it is ultimately leased to a charter school or not.
Several charter school representatives attended the hearing to listen to the concerns of the community, but none made remarks or presented plans.
Several residents described the Shaed building, which has been vacant for two years, as a poorly maintained blight on the neighborhood. DGS is responsible for maintaining the building but has not done an adequate job of managing the properties in its portfolio.
Considering that the official DGS announcements for the public meeting used an incorrect address for the Edgewood Recreation Center, some might wonder whether DGS officials even know where all their properties are located. (The DC Register and DGS announcements indicated the public meeting would be held at 3 Evarts Street NE instead of 300 Evarts Street.)
In addition to Aguirre, other officials at the meeting included Jackie Stanley, representing the DC Department of General Services, and Marc Bleyer of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education. They assured the audience that the community would have additional opportunities to comment on the development of the Shaed property.
East side of Shaed Elementary.
South side of Shaed Elementary near entrance.