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Michael N. Kruger Testimony – DCPS Budget Hearing – April 19, 2018

Good morning Members of DC Council, thank you for allowing us to come and testify here today.

My name is Mike Kruger and I am a parent of a first grader and rising EC-3 student at J.O. Wilson Elementary.

I am proud of the J.O. Wilson community and, like many parents, feel that the physical building doesn’t provide our children the best learning environment.

J.O. Wilson underwent the beginning of the Phase One renovation in 2013. That was an improvement, but there is still much to be done.

Since then, there have been some improvements. In 2016, the kitchen received a $450,000 renovation that included a new walk-in fridge and second serving line for our 100% free and reduced student population.

In 2016 and 2017, we worked closely with DGS to get the lead out of our water. While that process wasn’t easy, we do appreciate the final result of lead-free water.

Finally, last summer, we received new exterior doors that have improved the attractiveness of the entryway.

However, we still have some real impediments to learning. As you will hear, we are not ADA compliant and need ramps or lifts at our entries plus an elevator. There were verbal commitments to Principal Haggerty that the elevator would be installed this summer. I was informed on April 9th by Ms. Carla Watson that the elevator wouldn’t be installed until FY19. She did say, “We are working to install a lift or ramp this summer,” which isn’t very useful or valuable without an elevator.

The current configuration of the school building is not how it was when the HVAC system was designed and installed. Therefore, we have rooms without heat vents or returns. In the winter, students have to put on their coats to attend “specials” or go to the library. In the summer, they are unable to use some of the rooms due to the heat.

Our façade doesn’t not adequately drain when it rains. Therefore, the concrete chips and falls off. There have been many repairs in the last three years. Each one working as poorly as previously, and only making the school appear in disrepair from the street.

Also, water seeps into classrooms. Every room on the front (south) of the building has water stains on their ceiling. Given health concerns about indoor air quality and mold, it is frustrating this problem is not addressed.

Finally, in the recent PACE scores, J.O. Wilson was the school most in need of modernization in Ward 6. While not an honor we are especially excited about, it is one that clearly demonstrates with data what many parents feel about our building in their hearts. It doesn’t meet the challenges of educating students in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

The funding for the renovation would be in FY24, but it appears the project wouldn’t be completed until August 2026. My first grade son will be a freshman in high school and my daughter, who starts at J.O. Wilson next school year, will be in the third grade before the renovation is completed.

That’s too long. We look forward to having further conversations about how to improve the facility while our children are still there.

I call on the Council to reprogram the budget to ensure the elevator and HVAC issues are addressed this summer, while providing planning dollars for the water damage and falling façade that can be addressed in next year’s budget.

Finally, given the community interest in the school, we’d ask for a small amount of money to help facilitate school and local community engagement to begin planning for the renovation.

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