LaTesha Hudson Testimony – DC Public Schools Budget Oversight Hearing – March 29, 2019

Committee on Whole and Education

Budget Oversight Hearing of the District of Columbia Public Schools

 Friday, March 29, 2019

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am LaTesha Hudson, a parent of four children at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan (CHML) and Ward 8 resident. In addition to being a regular volunteer in the school, I serve on the school’s Swing Space Transportation Committee and support one of our Girl Scout Troops.

Our school will go into swing space starting next year as our current site undergoes a full, 2- year modernization. Thank you to Chairman Mendelson, Chairman Grosso and Councilmember Allen for supporting our modernization.

I testify today to ask you to provide additional funding of $4 million and direct DCPS and DGS to work with the architects and the community to determine creative solutions to build additional spaces we need to ensure that the school can be a school that serves a citywide population and supports all of the learning needs of ages 3 through 14, including underground parking in our new site. The various plan options for our school all include a new multi-story building that will require some digging and a foundation. In addition, under that building the architects confirm that they can dig down 33 feet before hitting water. We have not been allowed to look at the feasibility of options beyond the limited elementary “ed spec” that they use supposedly as a “base” for discussion. In fact, it has been the end of discussions.

We have significant challenges to parking on site above ground or in the neighborhood. We have an extremely small plot of land to service students 3 to 14 years olds that includes historic and federal property. As you can see from the chart below, when a school serves more grades, there is more square footage except for CHML. CHML has less square footage overall and less per kid square footage than other Ward 6 schools serving PreK-3 through 5th, yet the school will serve an entire middle school that those schools won’t serve. In addition, CHML has significantly less square footage and per kid square footage than the other Ward 6 education campus school. CHML’s square footage is most comparable to a stand-alone middle school serving grades 6-8 only.

School Gross Square Feet/Acreage Enrollment Grades Per kid square footage
CHML 115,674/2.66 495 (of new building) Pre-K3 through 8th 233.68
Ludlow-Taylor 129,349/2.97 414 Pre-K3 through 5th 312.44
JO Wilson 149,727/3.44 509 Pre-K3 through 5th 294.16
Stuart Hobson 87,528/2 422 6th to 8th 207.41
Peabody 34,998/.8 227 Prek3-K 154.18
Walker-Jones 147,512/3.39 435 Pre-K3 through 8th 339.11

Due to the various parking restrictions, permit requirements and traffic patterns, the streets surrounding the school are overcrowded and lack parking for parents, visitors, or teachers. The current DCPS plans allow for 24 spaces above ground. Yet the above ground lot will take precious land that can be used to help provide adequate outdoor space for our wide age- range of students, the proposed 24 spaces will not be enough spaces accommodate the teachers, staff and administrators. We need more than 24 spaces because we often to recruit teachers that commute from jurisdictions in the surrounding counties due to the fact that there is not a large pool of Montessori trained teachers in DC. In order to retain and support teachers that drive sometimes over an hour to get to the school we need to have ample parking spaces.

One of the main reasons I love this school is because of the diversity. CHML is a All Ward school, and it’s imperative that DCPS builds a new school building that will continue to welcome students citywide. Look at the scatterplot attached-our families come from all over the city. For example, 43% of our students come from Wards 7 and 8 (26% Ward 7; 17% Ward 8).

The majority of our Ward 7 and 8 families drive because they are coming from places that are not conducive to public transportation. In most cases if a family chooses to use Metro bus or rail their commute is an hour and 15 minutes and that’s on a good day. Most families that I know personally have to transfer multiple times between bus and train get to the school. I have 4 children ranging from 3 to 8 years old and I do not use not Metro bus or rail it’s imperative that I drive and parking is essential for me and a majority of the parents coming from east of the river.

A vast majority of the parents from many of our Ward 7 and 8 are very active in our school and want to remain active. We volunteer in classrooms, bring supplies for teachers, help with extracurriculars, sometimes into the evening hours. Every parent should be able to fully participate in the school and be involved in our children’s learning – not just those that live in walking distance. If we can’t know we are able to safely and easily park our cars, you will be creating an additional barrier, beyond a long commute, to actively participating in and supporting our children and sending them to the school they love. This is an equity issue.

In order to provide a school that can adequately serve families citywide with grades PK3-8, with enough inside and outside learning, play and enrichment space, we need you to provide funding for and a directive to DCPS and DGS to provide underground parking.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

 

 

 

 

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