Testimony of Iris Bond Gill
Parent, J.O. Wilson Elementary
to the DC Council Committee on Education
April 14, 2016
For more information: iris007gill (at) gmail (dot) com.
Good evening Chairman Grosso and Members of the Education Committee.
My name is Iris Bond Gill and I am parent of first and second grade students at J.O. Wilson Elementary School. I also serve on the executive board of the PTA and on the LSAT. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for over a decade and am grateful that we have a strong neighborhood school that my children can walk to and attend.
I want to talk about some of the immediate health and safety challenges we face at J.O. Wilson.
Accessibility: One of our biggest challenges is the lack of ADA accessibility at our school. We have a three-level building with no elevator or chairlift, and none of the main entrances are wheelchair accessible. Our principal has had to turn students away because it was too difficult for them to get to classes. In 2016, in our nation’s capitol, this situation is unacceptable, and in the current budget, there is no schedule for this to change. We thank our ANC commissioner who just yesterday put forth a resolution requesting ADA compliance for JO Wilson.
Stairwells: DGS rated our facilities as unsatisfactory or poor in two categories– “unsatisfactory in conveying” and “poor in stairwells” this year. This is the third year in a row that we’ve received poor ratings so we are saying now, on the record, that we need our stairwells upgraded to a safe standard for all students.
Cafeteria: While we received a partial phase one of a three-phase renovation several years ago, there is a large portion of our school that went untouched, including the cafeteria. Our cafeteria is overwhelmed by student demand. The huge uptick in enrollment at our school means that our only indoor space of any size, which also functions as an auditorium, is occupied for most of the day and the slow service–because our kitchen is inadequate to meet the high demand–prevents our children from getting the recess time they need after lunch.
Bathroom: And finally, this winter, a sink fell off a wall in a third floor bathroom while a student was using it. That student was injured by the shattering sink and had to go to the hospital for stitches. And that’s just one story that illustrates our need for bathroom upgrades throughout the building.
Our school is rapidly becoming an environment no longer conducive to learning. Yet we have no money allocated for renovations in this year’s budget or in any budget going forward.
We are specifically asking for two requests in the FY17 budget.
First, we need funding to remedy the health and safety concerns associated with the poor stairwells, lack of ADA accessibility, and bathrooms in need of repair.
Second, we need seed money to plan collaboratively with DCPS and DGS for the out-year renovations.
Families from all over the city are choosing JO Wilson. We’re sending our children at every grade level. We don’t experience the drop-off that other elementary schools experience after fourth grade. We have a very full fifth grade and we feed into a strong DCPS middle school. Our school is fully utilized from 7am until 6pm with one of the highest before and aftercare rates in the city.
This is a good problem to have and one way to continue to keep people is to have a great facility that can truly accommodate the daily wear and tear of school like ours. And the planning dollars will help us start this process of creating a smart and sustainable plan for our school.
Thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns and requests with you today.