This week, DC Public Schools (DCPS) and the Department of General Services (DGS) presented their latest attempt to design a new Murch and outlined the costs of the project. DCPS also participated in a community meeting on February 24 to answer questions about the process and show the newest proposed design.
The shifting news about costs and budgets has been confusing, however, the bottom line is that the project is still $10 million underfunded for the design that the community saw last year. According to DCPS and DGS:
- The cost to build the school (as it was developed in schematic designs last year) and move students to UDC for two years would be $88 million.
- The current budget for the project is $78 million.
- The budget was previously $68 million. Last week, the administration approved $10 million to be added to the project to help cover some additional costs, primarily for swing space.
- The trailers at UDC will cost more than $6.5 million to install and lease for two years. There are additional costs to the swing space as well, including agreements with UDC. It was not clear what the total cost of swing space will be as some of these costs are not yet public.
- DCPS and DGS are still under direction to redesign the project to fit the current $78 million budget. DCPS has told the administration that they believe they can build to at least 90% of the specifications for that cost.
It is clear that city leaders are attempting to keep costs for the project at the same level as budgeted for Lafayette Elementary. (The Lafayette project is currently budgeted at $78.65 million.) What needs to be made clear is that the cost of the Murch project is higher for reasons outside of the control of the community or the design team. Specifically:
- The portion of the site upon which the school can be build is compact.
- There are stricter limits on the Murch project from historic preservation and federal commissions than on many other schools.
- The building is particularly old and has never seen upgrades, so structural components need more work.
- The total square footage of the building needs to be doubled from the existing structure.
The HSA and the SIT are continuing to work with Mayor Bowser and her administration to try to find a solution. This week, we have:
- Spoken directly to the Mayor about our concerns.
- Testified before the DC Council regarding DGS.
- Spoken directly to Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles and DGS Director Christopher Weaver to discuss concerns and possible solutions.
- Spoken to Councilmember Mary Cheh about the project and possible solutions to the funding concerns. (You can read The Northwest Current for more on Councilmember Cheh’s response to the current situation.)
- Met with the DC Auditor to discuss why the project will cost the city so much and whether anything can be done to bring down costs without affecting the final building.
The Mayor, the Deputy Mayor for Education and DGS Director have all indicated that they will meet with Murch to review the current plans and try to understand the concerns of the community. We will continue to press the issue so that the school and community get the building that is needed for generations to come.
What can you do to help? Please continue to reach out to the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor for Education, the Chancellor, and members of the Council to let them know that this remains a critical issue without a solution. We need our leaders to understand that the Murch community is upset with the high cost of this project, but also needs the school to be built in a way that makes sense and serves the future. The city has had more than enough time to plan this properly and we do not want a delay. But the community also cannot accept a design that is ill-conceived and inadequate.
For more information, be sure to check out:
Also be sure to check out “Swing Space Updates,” for an ongoing list of updates and information.