Parents Protest DC School Transfer

Local parents incensed by the mandatory transportation of school children from the public Hyde-Addison Elementary School to a swing site located three miles away are urging Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and members of the D.C. Council to prevent the transfer.

The movement, which adopted the slogan “Don’t Wing the Swing,” has amassed 235 signatures online and plastered Wisconsin Avenue and O Street with signs to bring attention to its demand that D.C. Public Schools find a site closer to Georgetown than the proposed Meyer Elementary School location in Shaw.

The Shaw location would require students to travel more than an hour per day on buses to the location on Euclid and 11th Streets NW.

Hyde-Addison, the only public elementary school in Georgetown, is slated to begin two years of renovations this summer to expand classroom space and construct a new media center and multipurpose room. The project has been delayed for over five years as budget allocations, problems with a sewer pipe and concerns about historical preservation have repeatedly pushed back plans.

DCPS Communications Coordinator Janae Hinson said Hyde-Addison’s location in Georgetown presented unique challenges during planning and were responsible for these delays.

“Important to remember is that Hyde-Addison is located in Historic Georgetown, which means that there are limitations,” Hinson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We cannot build up or out, only down.”

Originally, parents were provided with local options for the relocation including Ellington Field in Burleith and Hardy Middle School in upper Georgetown until DCPS opted to funnel all Hyde-Addison students into the Meyer site.

Hinson said the decision was reached after considering a number of factors to minimize disruption for students.

“Our goal is to provide an equitable learning experience for all students and to design a building that allows for future student body growth,” Hinson wrote. “We took into account school population, classroom space, the teaching and learning environment and the overall impact on students, families and staff.”

According to the parent petition, 93 percent of Hyde parents surveyed by the city opposed the move to Meyer, claiming no neighborhood elementary school to date has been located so far from the community it serves.

DCPS established a School Improvement Team at Hyde-Addison to consult on issues arising during construction and disseminate information to the community about the project’s progress. The SIT is comprised of teachers, parents and community members who collaborate with the principal and Parent Teacher Association during all DCPS modernization projects.

SIT member Elissa Alben, who is involved with creating the petition, said she took issue with the city’s lack of transparency during the project.

“If you go back to when this started, the city initially sent us a letter as parents telling us first that the school was not going to move anywhere,” Alben said. “Then we received a letter saying that we were going to have to move, but they were only looking at local sites, and then a short time after we received another letter that they were no longer looking at local sites, they had chosen Meyer as their swing site. So parents were just constantly whipsawed in this process.”

Fellow Hyde-Addison parent Garance Genicot, a professor of economics at Georgetown, said DCPS was also inconsistent in its estimation of the length of the project.

“At first they were saying, ‘Oh, we are going to do this and it will take three months for major work and we will finish it locally,’” Genicot said. “And then they wake up and realize, ‘Oh no, it’s going to take two years,’ then they hide information. At the end, I don’t trust DCPS anymore to do anything. They were hiding the information from the parents.”

Henson said DCPS plans on providing transportation for Hyde-Addison students to Meyer.

“As stated in our letter to families, we feel that Meyer will best meet the academic needs of Hyde-Addison,” Henson wrote. “DCPS will provide transportation to and from the swing space, which is always done during a modernization of this scale.”

DCPS Interim Chancellor John Davis wrote in an Oct. 7 letter to Hyde-Addison parents that their feedback was an invaluable part of the Hyde-Addison modernization and would continue to be considered during the project.

“The DCPS modernization team will continue to work with the SIT to ensure a successful modernization process,” Davis wrote. “We understand the challenges that come with any modernization and the associated swing and will continue to engage students, parents, and staff to ensure two productive and enriching years.”

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