DCPS has asked Principal Cebrzynski to share the attached letter from Dr. Nathaniel Beers, Chief Operating Officer of DCPS.
The Murch School Improvement Team (SIT) and HSA and outraged by the way that he portrays the cuts to the project in this letter. In the letter he minimizes the effects of the cuts on our children. Here is what Dr. Beers is not telling you in this letter:
- In 2014, DCPS and DGS conducted a feasibility study at Murch to develop a design and a budget to build a school that would meet the needs of our students and the increased population they expect to have here. That study concluded that the only way to have a school of this size in this location, is to put substantial elements of the building underground.
- The feasibility study also showed that the project was more expensive than its budget at that time. The SIT was assured by city officials and the mayor that $68 million would be enough to go underground and build what was needed for a school this large. The budget was increased to $68 million.
- An architect came up with a plan based on that budget and the educational specifications that DCPS developed in consultation with the school and the SIT. The architect worked with the Murch community, DCPS, the National Park Service, Historic Preservation, and the federal Commission of Fine Arts, and the National Capital Planning Commission to find a balance that would work for all involved while still meeting the educational needs of our kids. The final design was budget conscious and narrowly drawn to the many unique restrictions on the project.
- DCPS and DGS then hired a builder without a bid on the proposed design.
- DCPS selected swing space for Murch that cost significantly more than was budgeted and significantly more than at least one other available option.
- After being hired, the builder told DCPS that they cannot meet the budget.
- The $10 million that has been added to the budget is primarily to cover swing space costs.
- DCPS’s solution to deal with the remaining shortfall is to hastily redesign the building. Their attempts to redesign the building do not meet the programmatic needs of our children in the following ways not mentioned in the attached letter from Dr. Beers:
- The significantly reduced outdoor play and learning space remaining after the compromises made in the first design will be further reduced to make room for two surface parking lots. The cuts eliminate the PreK playground, the school garden and outdoor classroom. The footprint of the building will be larger.
- Classroom and collaboration space sizes have been reduced.
- The cafeteria size has been reduced, so that there will need to be four separate seatings in order to accommodate the entire school. PreK and K students, however, will have to eat in their classrooms, because the early-childhood common room has been cut.
- There will be no space in the school large enough for a whole school assembly or meeting because the gym is 1000 square feet smaller than what DCPS said is required for a school our size.
- The media center (library/computer lab) will be smaller and located in the middle of the PreK and K spaces, potentially disrupting the younger students as all grades come and go from that space.
- The loading dock has been moved from 36th Street to Reno Road which means either trucks will have to back out onto the road throughout the day or the educational space will have to shrink to allow a turn around area. Trucks coming in and out of that location will cause increased traffic delays and more frustrated drivers, putting pedestrians at risk.
- There is also a serious safety concern with trucks coming in and out of the Reno Road entrance because Reno Road is the main entry point to the playground for students coming from or going to the south and west of the school.
Attached are the latest drawings and renderings from DCPS showing the current redesign and the traffic study on which they are relying. These designs are undergoing constant changes as DCPS and DGS attempt to find a way to include the necessary components of the building without putting any elements underground and still get the approval of the many agencies and authorities that are required to review the project.
At this point, the SIT and the HSA do not share DCPS’s confidence that they can deliver “a world-class building” — or even an adequate one — by redesigning the building in a few short months to fit a substantially under-estimated budget. Members of the HSA and the SIT are continuing to lobby for the project to be fully funded at $88 million. We have been meeting with city officials, including the Deputy Mayor for Education, working with members of the Council, testifying at a council hearing on DGS oversight, and working with the other groups that have oversight of the project and must give approval for the project to move forward. We will not stop lobbying the Mayor and other city officials until the project is brought back on track, and we welcome your help in doing so.