The former Clark Elementary on Kansas Avenue, which closed along with 22 other D.C. public schools in 2008, opened again this week under new management: E.L. Haynes public charter school, which was granted a 25-year-lease on the property and will put $15 million into renovating it. Fresh off Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting at Stoddert elementary, Mayor Adrian Fenty walked through approvingly, giving a thumbs up to construction workers still finishing another section.
It’s the second of three phases for E.L. Haynes, which started on top of a CVS at 14th and Irving Street in 2004. It then moved into a brand-new building on Georgia and Otis Place. The facility is located one block up from The House, a dodgy-looking strip club, and is generally not in an area you’d want to send kids walking in at night—but the school’s leadership didn’t want to move far from the community where they started out, and couldn’t afford something in a tonier area. So far, they’ve had not so much as a graffiti tag or a broken window.
“From day one, we communicated with the owner of the strip club,” says outreach coordinator Julie Anne Green. “The message that sends to the community is that we’re in this together.”
Financing the Kansas Avenue renovation was a bit trickier than most such arrangements: Director of Schools Jennie Niles pulled together a blend of new market tax credits, qualified school construction bonds, qualified zone academy bonds, and a grant from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to make it all happen. Along with upgraded mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, architect Shinberg.Levinas (which also designed the Georgia Avenue campus) moved walls around inside to create new windows, bigger classrooms and “team spaces” for small group activities.
Niles now splits her time between the two buildings, a short commute away from each other. The Georgia Avenue building has 450 third through eighth graders, while the Kansas Avenue campus has kindergarten through second
grade, and will eventually house a high school as well, for 650 students total. Any student who starts in one phase will have the right to advance to the next, and admissions prioritizes siblings. Most students come from Wards one and four, but the school has kids from every ward in the city.
The newly-tiled floors are already dotted with kids, but a few finishing touches have yet to be installed: Niles said they were able to “splurge” on a spacious fish tank and big flat screen T.V. for the lobby.