Committee wants University to collaborate on redevelopment of local school

Members of a committee devoted to continuing the educational purpose of Stevens Elementary School suggested last week that GW’s School of Education and Human Development could be part of the historic school’s revitalization.

Since the end of former Mayor Adrian Fenty’s administration, previous plans to develop the closed school into housing were scrapped, and residents are using the opportunity to explore other forms of redevelopment.

The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission created the Stevens School Vision Committee in January, and it includes residents of Foggy Bottom and the West End, as well as educational representatives from Ward 2.

The committee’s chair, commissioner Florence Harmon, told residents at last week’s ANC meeting that one option the committee suggested is having GSEHD be involved in the education of the school’s students if it reopens.

“Before Stevens was closed there were GW students tutoring at Stevens, but also having an education school within in blocks of Stevens will be an opportunity for interns in teaching, which will further benefit both the University and probably the students and the curriculum,” Harmon said.

Stevens, located at 1050 21st St. NW, was built after the Civil War as a publicly funded school for children of freed slaves. The National Park Service named it a National Historic Site in 2001. The school closed in 2008.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said the University was aware of comments made at the ANC meeting about GSEHD, but the University was unable to provide information about GW’s relationship with Stevens while it was in operation in time for publication.

“We will always consider working with our community, especially on important issues like education,” Sherrard said in an e-mail Tuesday.

Harmon said the committee is currently looking into charter school options for Stevens, and ways it could collaborate with local schools. Resident Don McGovern is now researching charter schools and is expected to report on his progress at the next ANC meeting.

Richard Trogisch, a former historian and now principal of School Without Walls, is a member of the Stevens committee and said he wants Stevens to be reopened.

“It will be disappointing for the former graduates of the school to see it turned into something else,” he said.

Trogisch said he ideally wants to see Stevens as a public school, but his second option would be a charter school.

The ANC is working to pass a resolution about what it wants done with the site. After that, Harmon told residents she would approach the city’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development for a meeting.

While some residents were opposed to previous proposals to turn Stevens into apartments or a hotel, Harmon said another option to renovate the school could be to partner with a developer so some land would be commercially developed and the school could still operate.

Harmon said the group would need to be open-minded, since funding isn’t available from the city. The ANC was also told informally that it could cost about $18 million to renovate the school and get it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We don’t have that funding so we’re going to have to look at some kind of partnership,” she said.

Amy D’Onofrio contributed to this report

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