GW pushes School Without Walls deal

GW officials said they are beginning negotiations with the city school board about proposed campus housing and a new School Without Walls High School despite a pending ruling on the building’s historical value.

University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said last week’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals gives GW “further impetus to develop more housing on campus,” and the tennis courts located behind the school could provide some room.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed a zoning order last week that requires GW to house 70 percent of fulltime undergraduate students, including all freshmen and sophomores, on campus or outside Foggy Bottom. The order also prohibits the University from building facilities that are less than 50 percent residential until this requirement is met.

The tennis courts are owned by GW and are within the campus boundaries, allowing any housing there to count toward the 70 percent.

If a deal is reached with the D.C. Public School Board, GW would tear down the School Without Walls High School and construct a new high school building that may include space for a partnership with the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

The University’s plans for a new residence hall and School Without Walls were first discussed this fall and are still pending a D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board ruling on the building.

The school, located at 2130 G St., was built in 1882 and may be deemed historic, which limits major renovation to the facility.

Tim Denee, architectural historian for the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board, worked on the School Without Walls case and said the “landmark nomination” is still pending. No timeline has been given for a ruling.

“In the meantime, we are in the process of beginning to sit down with the D.C. Public School Board to make plans,” Barber said.

Students from the School Without Walls are concerned with the facilities.

“We need a cafeteria, lockers, a bigger building, a gym and an auditorium,” freshman Shanez Martin said.

“Some classes need heaters. It is freezing in here in the winter,” freshman Terri Li said.

School Principal Dana Bedden has said the school is at 125 percent capacity and lacks facilities like a gymnasium, cafeteria and science labs.

Despite the needed improvements, other students and community officials said they are still in favor of preserving the building.

“We could improve the building, but it is not necessary to break the building down. As old as it is, it has history to it,” high school junior Tu Nguyen said.

If the School Without Walls is ruled historic and not able to be torn down, Barber said GW would still be interested in developing the land behind the school. But he said preservation of the building would not be ideal for University plans.

The School Without Walls High School is a magnet school run by the D.C. Public School Board.

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