The School Without Walls is old, but it is not necessarily historic. Resident and city concerns about preserving the building should not overshadow efforts to create what both GW and School Without Walls officials call a “win-win” situation.
Under a current proposal, GW would tear down the over-crowded, 120-year old School Without Walls and replace it with a new building. The new facility would include basic facilities like a gymnasium, cafeteria and science lab, which the school currently lacks. GW would help finance the new building and in exchange would acquire land behind the school to build another residence hall for GW students.
This would solve the problem of inadequate facilities for the School Without Walls and help the University meet city requirements for on-campus housing.
The D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board should consider the School Without Walls students when ruling on the building’s historic status. The historic merit of the building is not great enough to preserve the school the way it is, which could inhibit the ambitious students of the magnet high school from ever attaining the facilities they deserve. The building is already up to 125 percent capacity and is of sub-standard appearance. A new building would be good for the students of the school and for GW.
The same residents that complain about GW’s lack of on-campus housing oppose the proposal, which would actually help meet their demands for more student housing. Local residents contend the proposal is only about GW’s desire for more property, but they are disregarding the benefits to the community at large.
High school students in inadequate facilities would get an upgrade, and the Foggy Bottom neighborhood would be relieved of additional students moving off campus with the construction of a residence hall. This is not an attack on the “historic underpinnings” of the neighborhood, it is a realistic solution to legitimate concerns that also benefit the University.
The proposal also holds promise to expand the relationship between the School Without Walls and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development. The ability of the GSEHD to place more student teachers in the high school, located on GW’s campus, and for School Without Walls’ teachers to attain masters or doctoral degrees at the University is an innovative idea that could become a model for graduate education schools across the country.
Leaving the current School Without Walls building standing strictly because of its age will be disadvantageous for the school’s students and GW.