Ivymount program scraps plan to open in former Stevens School

Updated: May 26, 2017 at 4:18 p.m.

A private special needs education program has canceled its plan to open a school in the former Thaddeus Stevens School building, a program official confirmed Thursday – more than a week after D.C. Public Schools pulled its funding for the project.

Ivymount, a private school program operating two schools and outreach programs for children with learning and intellectual disabilities including autism, planned to open a third school in the now-closed Stevens School building on 21st Street as soon as next year.

Nancy Yasharoff, the special events coordinator at Ivymount, declined to say if the project was cancelled because DCPS backed out of funding the program last week, deferring to D.C. officials for comment. DCPS had previously committed to pay $50,000 for each student expected to attend the school, community leaders said last week.

Yasahroff said the program still wants to work with D.C. officials to make sure D.C. residents have access to Ivymount’s services.

“We’re really good partners with the city, and we’re all about servicing students with special needs,” she said.

DCPS spokeswoman Janae Hinson said the school system will not continue putting the Ivymount program in place at the Stevens School instead favoring to provide special needs education in neighborhood schools.

“We will continue to work with Ivymount as a vital partner in our neighborhood schools so that every student’s needs are met,” she said in an email.

The D.C. Council and the Historic Preservation Review Board approved renovations to the aging Stevens School after it closed in 2008 following 140 years in operation.

Akridge, the development company working to renovate the property, will continue its project – including plans to add an art gallery, retail and business space – Washington Business Journal reported.

Eve Zhurbinskiy, a Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood commissioner, said the school’s withdrawal will be a loss for the neighborhood, because the city lacks strong programs for children with special education needs.

She said after years of working to get the program into the school, she was not surprised that Ivymount officials decided to cancel the project.

“They’re very tired having to deal with this process for five years, and I think they decided at this point its not worth it,” she said.

She added that the ANC will evaluate the next steps to decide what will open in the Stevens School building.

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