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Ever since Bruce Monroe Elementary School was demolished a few weeks ago—and long before that, really—a group of local parents has kept up a steady drumbeat of protest over the ever-receding deadline for its reconstruction. The last we heard, $20 million remained in the FY 2011 budget. But at a City Council budget hearing on Tuesday, the parents asked Chairman Vince Gray whether it would stay there, and learned that it would actually be phased in from 2012 until 2018. Gray called that a “cruel joke.”
“Many of your children will not have the opportunity to be educated in this new building,” he said.
Bruce Monroe advocates place that squarely on the shoulders of the schools chancellor, who they say has broken her promise. “There’s a strong possibility now that if Michelle Rhee has anything to do with it, that the school will not be rebuilt,” said Dyana Forester, a Family-Schools advocate at Teaching for Change.
The parents are now turning to other sources of assistance. Sequnely Gray says they might approach Target, which has donated millions to the D.C. libraries, to help finance a community school with facilities for neighborhood activities. But it’s going to be difficult to pull together the money without DCPS issuing a request for proposal to private developers, which was the original plan to fill out the construction budget.
Meanwhile, it’s looking increasingly doubtful that the city will be able to build its interim design for the site by summertime. The RFP is supposed to go out next week, which pushes the completion date back to July, if all goes as well as possible. “I kick over tables and chairs every day,” said Andre Byers, who oversees the plan for the Office of Planning and Economic Development.
But no worries—it looks like the “interim use” now might have to last about…seven years.