On Tuesday evening, February 10, Murch parents and community members filled the school’s all-purpose room to meet with Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles. They shared their frustration with the long wait for renovation and their wariness that the need for additional funding might delay the project again.
Deputy Mayor Niles told the Murch community that Mayor Muriel Bowser would include in her upcoming budget the full $65 million necessary to modernize Murch. This would keep Murch on the current timeline to begin construction in June 2016. Councilmember Mary Cheh also attended to reiterate her strong support for the school.
This follows weeks of discussions between the HSA Co-Presidents, members of the SIT and city leaders, including Mayor Bowser, Deputy Mayor Niles, the Mayor’s budget staff, and Councilmembers.
The Budget Process
The funding commitment by Deputy Mayor Niles, on behalf of the Mayor, is a huge step to ensuring that Murch is finally renovated and expanded. For school modernization projects, getting funding that is not in the Mayor’s budget proposal requires the Council to shift funds from another capital improvement project.
The Mayor is scheduled to send her budget proposal to the DC Council on April 2. The Council will then hold hearings and approve a final budget. In recent discussions with Murch leaders, Education Committee Chairman David Grosso and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson have both reaffirmed their strong support for moving the Murch project forward without delay.
Representatives from the DC Department of General Services (DGS) also attended the February 10 meeting at Murch to discuss the school modernization process. DGS announced it has hired the architecture firm of R. McGhee & Associates (in partnership with Hord Coplan Macht) to design the renovated school. Ronnie McGhee, the principal architect, is a former Murch parent. He and his wife are excited to be involved in building the Murch of the future while honoring Murch’s history.
In the coming months, DGS will hold meetings with those living immediately adjacent to the school and then begin larger community meetings on the planning process. This short DGS video provides more information on DGS’s process for school modernization.
Where will students go during construction?
One of the primary concerns expressed by parents was planning for where students will be during construction, otherwise known as “swing space.” DGS is currently working to determine what space nearby the school is feasible and available for use. In response to the many questions about swing space from parents, Kenny Diggs, DGS’s Director of Government Affairs and Communications, stated:
- Swing space is a particularly challenging issue for Murch.
- At other schools, swing space has been located either on the property (in trailers or parts of the building not under construction), at a nearby site that is rented and adapted for school use, or at another DCPS school not currently in use.
- The goal is to find a site as close to Murch as possible, but there are no specific requirements on how close it must be.
- DGS and the National Park Service (NPS) have discussed the potential for allowing NPS property on site to be used for swing space, however it is not clear if that is a realistic option.
- DGS is also investigating numerous sites near the school, including UDC and commercial properties with vacancies.
- Any swing space selected would have to meet the needs of a school, including play space.
- Any swing space would need to accommodate all the students in one location. The school would not be split between multiple locations.
Swing space is a critical issue for current Murch families. The School Improvement Team and the HSA are working closely with DGS and will make sure that parents remain informed about any developments and have opportunities for input.