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(Photo by Darrow Montgomery)
H.D. Woodson Senior High School, a.k.a. the nine-floor “Tower of Power,” is set to be demolished this summer. But when and how exactly?
Yesterday, Woodson’s alumni association (and surely a multitude of other D.C. listservs) received word that the groundbreaking would occur Monday July 7 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Yet, less than two weeks ago, the school was still loaded with furniture, books, equipment, trophies, and with no clear leadership in the building (Principal Gwendolyn Jones was fired by Chancellor Michelle Rhee), many staff seemed confused about deadlines and moving dates.
So, what does this little event really kick-off? Well, not much, says Tony Robinson, spokesperson for the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization Projects. Groundbreakings are the most ceremonial of ceremonies, and this one is no exception.
Immediately after the event, “We’ll start some excavation out on the football field. Then, after that, they’ll start doing asbestos abatement in the school,” says Robinson, a 1980 Woodson alumnus.
The school demolition won’t occur until at least a few weeks after July 7, and will likely last until September. And don’t expect some wild explosion to rock the calm streets of Deanwood.
“No, No,” says Robinson. “Everyone wants to see [Woodson] implode,” but the building will brought down by a plain jane wrecking ball.
The new Woodson building will cover the old school site, as well as part of the current space of the football field. One thing’s for sure: it will not be a highrise, like its innovative and extraordinarily dysfunctional predecessor. Construction won’t begin until the old building is fully demolished.
Building plans were shown at Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander‘s “State of the Ward” meeting late May, says her Chief of Staff J.R. Meyers, adding that the new Woodson was designed for 1,300 students. (As of last fall, the enrollment was just over 750.)
Woodson first opened in 1972. According to a February Washington City Paper article, “Neighborhood residents fought the tower on the grounds of its imposing height, but it got rave reviews from architectural types. Charles Atherton, secretary of the federal Commission of Fine Arts, said the school would “be a good symbol and an excellent landmark.”
The new school is slated to open in 2010.
“As a Woodson graduate, I can honestly say this building is going to be the crown jewel of the District’s new school inventory,” says Robinson. “It’s going to be a very contemporary building.”
Hmmm, sounds familiar.