Anyone interested in schools and public space in Brookland has most probably heard about the new Brookland Middle School (BMS) and the issues surrounding its placement near Turkey Thicket recreation center. We caught up with Faith Hubbard, the President of the Ward Five Council on Education (W5COE) and asked her some questions about the organization and the new school.
For the readers unfamiliar withe W5COE, what does your organization do?
The W5COE, a 501(c)3 organization founded in 1989, is dedicated to improving the quality of education in Ward 5 schools. The W5COE provides a forum for parents, citizens, students, educators, elected officials and other stakeholders to share their views and resolve issues surrounding our schools. We work closely with DCPS, OSSE, the DME, as well as other relevant education organizations, to ensure that the quality of public schools – both traditional and charter – in Ward 5 is exactly what our Ward 5 students, parents, and community at large deserves. The W5COE also serves as an outreach platform for our Ward 5 Councilmember and Ward 5 State Board of Education Representative to keep the public current on education issues and we work very closely with those representatives as well.
What is the vision (academic and otherwise) for the new BMS?
Middle schoolers are being educated in Ward 5 at our education campuses, but they are being under educated. In an assessment that was done by the W5COE a few years ago it was noted that our Ward 5 middle grade students were not receiving the basics that could help them to move on not only to the best high schools in the city but also just to high school period. Our middle grade students were not receiving lab sciences, foreign languages, pre-Algebra or Algebra (as math options), and the list goes on. Although some academic issues might have been remedied to a degree, our middle grade students are still not getting the level of education that they deserve.
The vision for Brookland Middle and McKinley Middle was to fill in that gap. The specific vision for Brookland Middle is not only to be a state of the art middle school where our Ward 5 students can get the level of education that they deserve and to prepare them for high school, but to be an arts and world languages school. This academic focus will be in addition to the rigorous curriculum that the students will receive – the conversation has been around having the arts and world languages component to be more of an integrated approach so that students would be able to make connections across subjects.
Although the hope is to open the doors of Brookland Middle in 2014, we all know that getting the school to the point where it is a model middle school, like Alice Deal or Hardy will take time but it is possible, and our students deserve the possibility! Our role is to support and nurture that possibility and hold DCPS accountable in making that happen.
Speaking specifically in terms of the BMS and its physical proximity to Turkey Thicket, you mentioned that the concept pictured below is your preferred option. Why is that?
This is my preferred option because I feel that it gives the community everything that we are looking for and it give us the ability to grow when the time comes. The location of both properties so close to each other will also be of value to not only the two entities but also the the community as well. The middle school would be able to use certain amenities at Turkey Thicket and vice versa. This rendering will also alleviate some of the traffic issues that many raised with locating the school on 10th St. and it will also provide a safe pick up and drop off area for students.
Personally, I feel that having the school in that location will benefit the new middle school in many ways. I places the school closer to metro, which is good for students who will need to take the bus or the train. Also, academically this rendering would be able to ensure that Brookland Middle will be state of the art with all of the amenities that a middle school needs. Not to mention, having a state of the art middle school in that location would really beautiful that block and work nicely with the plans that DPR has for modernizing Turkey Thicket.
Although this rendering is my personal preference, I feel that it is important to still work through this process with the Brookland School Improvement Team and the community to ensure that the right selection, or rendering, is made for what is best for the community. I must also note that there are other rendering options as well. It is good that this conversation has been sparked and that we can have this conversation openly and deliberate on that option that will be best for Brookland and our Ward 5 community at large.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
If people are interested in learning more about this matter (BMS and Turkey Thicket), we will discuss it at our monthly meeting – which this month we are doing in conjunction with the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association – on Tuesday, March 19th from 6:30-8pm at the Lamond-Riggs Library at 5401 South Dakota Ave. NE. We hope that you will join us. We will have a representative from DGS there to discuss where we are in the process and take questions. We are also working with our councilmember on another community meeting so please stay tuned for that information.
How can interested readers keep up with the W5COE?
There are several ways that people can keep up with W5COE. We are on Facebook at The Ward Five Council on Education so please like us; you can follow us on Twitter@Ward5EdCouncil; and, we also have a listserv so if you are interested please Join our listserv! This week we hope to unveil our website and once we do I will also share that with you as well! We can always be reached by email email@example.com or by phone at 202-505-4309.