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Wilson Kids Headed To UDC

It looks increasingly likely that Woodrow Wilson High School's 1,500 students will spend the 2010-11 academic year at the University of the District of Columbia while their building undergoes a $70 million renovation. Lew's office says details still need to be worked out, but Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and UDC spokesman Alan Etter said Thursday that negotiations for the school to occupy a campus property known as called "Building 52"--atop the Gold's Gym on Connecticut Ave--are nearly complete.

While the issue of temporary space for the kids has apparently been resolved, there's still a lack of consensus on what Wilson will look like when they return in August 2011. The proposed design by the architectural firm Cox, Grae + Spack has some striking features, including a signature four-story, glass-enclosed atrium at the center of the Tenleytown school's primary building.

The debate involves the other Wilson buildings, and Lew's strong preference for their "adaptive reuse" rather than complete replacement. Under his plan, the existing auditorium next to the new aquatic center would become the gym; what's now the gym would be a new visual and performing arts center. But Cheh, in a letter to Lew late last month, said she is concerned about "the community's disquiet" on several fronts.

"Serious, informed people, who have been working on this project from the beginning, continue to have grave concerns," she wrote on Nov. 23.

Among the objections are the size of the new gym, which she said will be smaller than the current one and problematic for sports events. Parking plans will increase pedestrian safety issues on Chesapeake street, and the design leaves the campus with 17 different levels requiring eight elevators, five of which have no backups, according to Cheh's letter.

Critics of the design, who include members of the Wilson Management Corp., the nonprofit overseeing facilities at the school, say that Lew has never been clear on the cost differences between reuse and replacement. The issue needs to be aired, Cheh said.

"As you know and are sensitive to, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform Wilson High School into a first-class facility...To express it as you might, it is as if the current design is 'good' but not 'excellent,'" she wrote.

Lew is scheduled to meet with the school community again next week. But with a ceremonial groundbreaking set for Dec. 15th and construction scheduled to start in June, it's not clear how many big design changes there are likely to be.

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  December 4, 2009; 9:20 AM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Bill Turque,Education , Education  
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I guess if Ballou was in ward 3 it might get repaired huh?

Posted by: scinerd1 | December 4, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse


with a $70,000 "make-over" project.

Posted by: no_turning_back | December 4, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

from wikipedia - "Woodrow Wilson High School is the top performer in the non-magnet High School system in DCPS and one of the top performers in DCPS overall. About 89 percent of Wilson graduates continue their education beyond high school, with 77 percent attending four-year or two year colleges or universities."

and this is the school they choose to renovate? when you have so many schools that are falling apart and failing students entirely? what's the reasoning there?

Posted by: anon82 | December 4, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget McKinley, - another top performing school, not in Ward 3, that already got a makeover.

Posted by: efavorite | December 4, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Being a teacher in neither of the two "top performing" schools mentioned, I will tell you the message is clear to the kids. They will tell you, we "get" to go to a school that looks like this sh!t because they think we ARE sh!t. If you don't even care enough to replace broken ceiling tiles why would the kids think anyone cares about their well-being and education?

Posted by: scinerd1 | December 4, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Okay....the new Eastern will open up in about 8-months in Ward 6. The Woodson project is still being "what?" after about two years of being a vacant lot...and about 10 years in the planning stages. BREAKING NEWS, they are surveying the ground over at Woodson.

Now, you will have the Wilson project getting ready for a ground breaking in December 2009 prior to anything like a move that is scheduled for 2010.

Hey, just last week OPEFM did a ceremonial ground-breaking for the new Eastern and construction had been going on for about 4-months. I guess better late than never.

What I find so ironic that Wilson is given a university campus like setting to relocate...and what did you do with School Without Walls, Woodson and Eastern basically did the guinea pig experiment in facilities 101?

The other irony I find is that majority of the Wilson students wouldn't attend UDC unless they HAD TO BE THERE for some reason. Now the scrutiny comes, once they begin to build on Anacostia, let's see what ingenius plan will they derive for those of Ward 7...any guesses...? I say they will build a pier and get boats to house the students on the Anacostia River.

New high school roll call; McKinley, SWW, Luke Moore, Phelps, Bell, Eastern(pending), Anacostia(pending) and Woodson(pending). Now there's something wrong with that picture...but I am too tired to point it out. As I yawn...what about Banneker, Ballou, Cardozo, Dunbar, Ellington, Coolidge, Spingarn and Roosevelt...ooops I am dozing-off!?!

HEY! They are ensuring schools are completed in areas that provide a lot of votes as next year is a political year.


Posted by: PowerandPride | December 4, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I hear you, Scinerd - there's no excuse for not making those kinds of simple repairs

Posted by: efavorite | December 4, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Anacostia should be condemned. Yet it is serving as a depressed educational institution.

Whatever happened to the swing schools? Does anyone know? They were suppose to house staff and students for times such as this one mentioned in the article.

Hardy now! Wilson later parents of SE children. You will soon be asked to stay on your side of the river once this project is completed. "Build it and they will come". In this case, they will return.

Posted by: shank2sb | December 5, 2009 2:00 AM | Report abuse

Ok, so I'm not am impartial party (I teach at one of the two magnet schools), but has anyone who's commenting actually been in Wilson? I've been in the buildings mentioned as needing repair and they absolutely need to be repaired - but so does Wilson, and it's been too long in coming.

Ballou, I believe, had a bunch of new science labs put in it not too long ago.

Roosevelt had its open-space classrooms repaired so that there could be sanity.

School Without Walls was renovated ... for the first time since the 1880s when it was built.

McKinley Tech looks amazing and is not in Ward 3.

Anacostia and Eastern are getting makeovers.

Woodson's project is moving incredibly slowly, but is moving.

Coolidge is finally suitable for human life.

I think the ones that should be next are Spingarn, Cardozo and Dunbar, all of which need to be repaired.

Of the many, many, many disparities in DCPS, the fact that the Wilson students are finally getting a building is not one of them. Also, although Wilson and Deal are located west of the Park doesn't mean a majority of the students there are in-boundary. Hardy in Georgetown got repaired, but since its population is largely out-of-boundary (and should stay that way), I'm not hearing similar outrage.

Posted by: sydneybergman | December 5, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Two years ago, UDC's school of Business moved into rental property,the IntelStat while Building 52 was "renovated." The University has no room for classes or the Community College of the District of Columbia or faculty and staff offices, except those for Dr. Sessom's carpetbaggers from Delaware who draw first tier salaries and commute every day--some don't come to the District--they work from home!(Delaware) and receive their checks in the mail.

Building 52 was and is inappropriate for classroom instruction. Why not let Wilson share facilities with Bell Multicultural High School which is undersubcribed and a few blocks away? Most of Wilson's students live closer to Bell than than Wilson anyway.

Posted by: Chalkduster | December 5, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Frankly, as a DC Taxpayer I am getting sick and "effing" tired of spending hundreds of millions per school on "architecturally cutting edge" designs. What ever happened to just building a quality, solid building that isn't ugly and wasn't going to cost a fortune to maintain?

There is no need to build some ridiculous architecturally odd design soaring with stainless steel features etc that would be better at home in the Dubai skyline than a DC school building, especially when it costs twice as much to build as a "normal" building.

70 million on a renovation? They just spent 30 million on a pool at that same school!

In comparison, my hometown in PA built a new high school last year for 1100 students for 45 million dollars, and we renovate one for 70?

Posted by: Nosh1 | December 5, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Wilson desperately needs to be renovated, perhaps not as desperately as some of the other high schools (I haven't been to all of them, but the ones I seen are in about the same shape)

It is extremely helpful to have a few hundred parents who donate large amounts of money to Fenty's campaign agitating for a new school.

I've seen the plans for the new Wilson, and they are underwhelming and honestly focus on a couple of big appealing things (skylight and new auditorium) at the expense of focus on the classrooms and such.

Having 17 different levels in the 21st century is inexcusable. There is not going to be money to fix the planned elevators once they break (and they will break) and students in wheelchairs are going to be unable to use all of the features of the school.

Overall, I'd love to see the renovation, but the plan is being rammed down a lot of throats, and won't be as good as it should be.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | December 5, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

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