While swing space for the modernization now looks good, the quality of the main project is in jeopardy due to funding issues. DCPS and DGS have informed the Murch School Improvement Team that the current budget is not sufficient to the design they developed over the past year.
It is important to understand that this project was underfunded, in spite of the known complexities of the project. DCPS and DGS got the budget estimate wrong, and now they are trying to cover for their mistake no matter what the price is to the school. DCPS and DGS knew prior to last year’s budget process that the Murch modernization would require significant portions of the space to go underground and that the school would have to be moved offsite for two full years. They told the SIT, the Mayor, and the DC Council that the current $68 million budget would cover what was necessary. Now they say it will not.
The agencies told the SIT that the two biggest things causing the current shortfall are swing space costs and building underground — the very things the school was told had been included in the prior budget estimate! DCPS has now told the SIT that they are adding money to the budget to cover the swing space costs because they recognize that there were serious problems in the process of selecting swing space. Rather than add money to build the school as designed, however, they want to redesign the building to meet the current budget. They seem to believe that they can redo in four months what was developed over the course of a year in conjunction with the school, the community, and a number of local and federal entities! (You can see an analysis of the design changes they have proposed here.)
We know that the community is outraged, and we should all be. The city should be held accountable for their mistakes. There are three specific things you can do now to help make sure that the city provides the funds necessary to build the school our students and future generations of students need:
- Email or call the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor for Education and the members of the DC Council (particularly the member from your Ward, Education Committee Chairman David Grosso, and Chairman Phil Mendelson). Personal notes to each individual are the most powerful if you are able to do so. You can find contact information for each of those people here.
- Share this information with friends and colleagues. What is happening at Murch affects every other school that needs to be renovated and it demonstrates major flaws in how our city government works.
- Attend one of the Mayor’s Budget Forums and raise the issue. There are three forums scheduled:
Thursday, February 25, 6:30-8:30 pm at Roosevelt Senior High School (Sign up here to attend.)
Saturday, February 27, 1-3 pm, DC Department of Employment Services (Sign up here to attend.)
Monday, February 29, 6:30-8:30 pm, Greenleaf Recreation Center (Sign up here to attend.)
Over the past week, the HSA and SIT members have been hard at work reaching out to city leaders. We will continue that outreach and we will continue to update the community. Please check out the story that ran last night on ABC7 News. Thank you to the community for all the contacts you have already made on this. Together we can make sure that the city finds a way to build a facility that will serve Murch students properly for generations to come!