What’s the deal with… children on leashes in University Yard?

You’re throwing a Frisbee with your roommate. They’re rolling a ball to their line buddy. You’re on your way to anthropology. They’re taking a break from the alphabet. From nearby daycare centers, they travel to University Yard – typically by way of wagon or leash.

Randa Steblez, director of the Owl School, a daycare center one block from University Yard in the basement of the United Church on 20th Street, said the school takes its children to play in GW’s main – and only – quad in Foggy Bottom for a few hours each weekday. For the past 12 years, it has been their play place of choice – one of the only substantial green spaces in the surrounding cityscape.

“It is popular with the other daycare centers. It is clean. It is safe. There aren’t any homeless people or degenerates around, which sounds like I am prejudiced, but I am when it comes to kids,” Steblez said. “And the GW students are friendly.”

For many, seeing children playing on campus can be heart-warming. Their means of travel, however, can be perplexing. To complete the one-block venture, the Owl School uses a leather-padded rope to keep the kids in line. Steblez doesn’t like to call it a leash because “that sure brings to mind something bad.”

“We have a travel rope. They each have a special ring they hold onto,” she said.

Apparently, there are conflicting schools of thought on the best way to travel the city with young children. While the Owl School won’t let a single pair of light-up shoes hit the sidewalk without the child holding onto his “travel rope” ring, the daycare center at the World Bank uses wagons to corral kids to University Yard.

“We don’t really use kid leashes here,” said James Nelson, an administrative assistant at the World Bank’s daycare center, also located one block from University Yard. “It’s just not what we’re about here.”

Steblez stands by the rope. Wagons, she said, are “counterproductive” and can look “pretentious” unless the children are very small.

“The kids are sitting there looking cute and the teachers are blabbing,” she said.

The daycare center at the World Bank cares for more than 100 children from ages 6 months to 5 years. The nearly 50 students at the Owl School range from 2 to 5 years old.

So – methods of pee-wee travel aside – for a few hours each weekday, GW truly does host students of all ages.

-Caitlin Carroll

“What’s the deal with …” is a new weekly feature in the Life section. If you have a suggestion for the column, e-mail features@gwhatchet.com.

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