We want to thank the over 250 readers who signed our petition regarding the ongoing concerns about the proposed co-location of the future Brookland Middle School and the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center. At the community meeting on Thursday March 14th, we represented those of you who signed the petition and let the Departments of Parks and Recreation (DPR), General Services (DGS) and DC Public Schools (DCPS) know that the various segments of the community will not be pitted against each other. The bottom line of the petition is simply – we should get a state-of-the-art middle school, keep our well used recreation center in tact, and have the great community playground that up until two weeks ago was on the cusp of breaking ground. If you agree, the petition is still open for signatures below and in the right hand column of this page.
At the meeting on Thursday, we finally saw some options besides the co-location plan. To the general public these options are new; even though those working closely with the DCPS, DGS, and DPR, like the Ward 5 Council on Education (W5COE) and the Brookland School Improvement Team (SIT) have been working on these options for some time. Unfortunately, the architects breezed over the non co-location options, and spent a lot of time going over the various co-location options and their entry points, etc. which did not go over well with the 70 or so community member present – who seemed to oppose co-location by and large. (There was also a lot of discussion about why the Brookland site was chosen. Quite frankly, readers, a lot of work has gone into selecting a site over the last few years, and while it is worth discussing, I think the decision has been made.) Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie showed up and made a forceful statement that co-location and poor communication from DGS is unacceptable. Thanks in part to him, we were finally able to get our hands on some architectural renderings from DGS instead of using cell phone photos taken at the meeting like we have had to up until this point. A DGS representative at the meeting noted that deciding on the final concept will be a 5 week process, so time is of the essence – we have to make sure our voice is heard now. The next opportunity to speak up about these options is at a joint W5COE/Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association (BNCA) meeting on Tuesday, March 19th from 6:30-8:00 pm at the Lamond-Riggs Library at 5401 South Dakota Ave. NE.
So here are some alternative options – what do you think? (If you would like to see the entire presentation go here.) Let’s start off with what we are working with today. The red outline is of the now defunct Brookland Middle School, which most people assumed would be the footprint of the new BMS.So here is the “General” option, a 3 story school with underground parking, staying at the same foot print as above. It doesn’t touch Turkey Thicket. One issue raised with this option is that it is very close to the bordering residences which is more of an issue than it is today because it will be a bigger building and it will fill the entire footprint. Also, some say that this will make the school and Turkey thicket very cut off from one another instead of having a more “campus-like” environment. This concept calls for a fully self-contained gym but it is expected that the students would have joint use of the fields and tennis courts. Under this plan, Michigan Avenue, NE would be the drop off/pick up zone. In this scenario, the new Turkey Thicket playground can go ahead as planned.
Some people, including me, wonder if Michigan Ave is really the best place for to drop off and pick up kids. So here is a modification of the “General” plan – this time with the alley that runs behind the school used as the drop off/pick up zone.
This next “General” option it is pretty much the same as the one above, except the tennis courts are moved up and the school can have a slightly larger footprint. The playground plans would not be affected.
Option 1 is where things start to get interesting. Michigan Ave remains as the entrance. This option introduces above-ground parking spaces off of Shepard Street. To accommodate this footprint, the Turkey Thicket playground, tennis courts, basket ball courts, etc. have to be reconfigured. This will throw plans for the new playground off. Some say that the playground offers a nice buffer between the school and Turkey Thicket, while others worry about how young children and middle schoolers will interact in this scenario.
Option 2 moves the school next to, but not attached to, Turkey Thicket. This is very signficant in that this would move the entrance and drop off/pick up to 10th St, NE. While this would theoretically provide a nicer view for the neighbors on Shepard St., it would completely rearrange the playground area and shift the traffic burden to 10th St.
Option 2 (?) – this is the co-location plan we posted on March 4th. I won’t get into the details of why I oppose this plan, which I perceive as short-changing the future middle school kids and the loss of currently used community facilities. Suffice it to say, any co-location plan would pose difficulties because if the school and Turkey Thicket are to be one building, security rules will affect how the different populations served by the two interact, and are restricted. We have learned that this will amount to the community’s access to amenities like the gym being severely reduced unless there are two gyms. This option only has one gym, for example. Since Turkey Thicket is used at or near capacity already, we feel whatever plan is selected should accommodate growth and be scaled upward not downward. Note: Blue= School Property, Tan=Community Property and Green=Shared Space.
Option 4 introduces a whole new concept putting the school on the current athletic fields, and creating a “new” street. All recreational facilities would shift to the north east of Turkey Thicket. Personally, I like this one the best. Teenagers, and everyone else, would have their own breathing room. However, I worry that this is a much more complex and costly endeavour than the other options.
So there you have it, folks. Let us know what you think in the comments section. Here is the petition for those who haven’t signed yet and are in favor of a solution that takes everyone in the community into consideration.[emailpetition id=”1″]