On December 16, the Murch School Improvement Team (SIT) met with Brian Hanlon, Director of the DC Department of General Services (DGS), Lisa Ruda, Deputy Chancellor of DC Public Schools (DCPS), Councilmember Mary Cheh, and members of their staffs.
Here is what we learned:
- DGS now has agreed to issue an RFP for design planning next week, prior to December 26. That should allow an architecture firm to be selected near the end of February.
- DGS intends to begin construction as soon as school ends in June 2016.
- In order to complete the entire scope of the project at one time, an additional $25-26 million dollars would need to be allocated in the DC budget for Fiscal Years (FY) 2016 and 2017. To allow for proper planning, those additional funds would need to be identified during the FY 2016 budget process taking place this spring.
- A complete modernization and expansion of the scope needed at Murch will take 18-24 months. This means that if construction begins in June 2016, and takes place all at once, the project would be completed for occupancy in January or August 2018.
- If additional, sufficient funding is not secured in the FY 2016 budget process, the project would be completed in phases. Work would still begin in June 2016 and the construction timeline would be similar, however, work on some aspects of the project would have to continue into future years as funding was allocated. In that case, the details of how the project could be structured would be worked out in the design process.
- Students would need to be moved out of the current building during all or the majority of construction. DGS and DCPS have not identified appropriate swing space, but will prioritize finding space and working with the SIT and school to better inform them of the progress of their efforts.
The SIT members made it very clear that the school community was frustrated and angry that the early estimates of construction were so far from the current estimates. They also expressed frustration with the lack of high-level negotiating by DGS and DCPS with the National Park Service and the Historic Preservation Board. Likewise, the group communicated their disappointment at the efforts to identify swing space.
Getting these additional funds will not be easy as the DC budget has increasing constraints. The SIT stressed to DGS and DCPS officials that the community expects them to prioritize the Murch project and fight for the needed funds along with the Murch community.
What is next? The HSA is working on a plan of outreach to District leaders. We have already begun reaching out to Mayor-Elect Muriel Bowser and her staff. We once again will be inviting every member of the DC Council to tour Murch. The Council will have 3 new members and two Council seats (Wards 4 & 8) will be vacant throughout the budget process. We will reach out to education advocates across the city and encourage them to visit Murch.
What can families do now? As we return to school in January, you will receive more information about what you can do to help. We will need the help of all our families with outreach at various times. But if you are able to devote more time to this effort, please let us know by sending an email to HSAMurch@gmail.com.
Over break, we ask families, including our students, to take a moment to write Mayor-Elect Bowser to emphasize the importance of getting these additional funds for the Murch modernization. Please note: The HSA will work to educate the Mayor-Elect and her staff on the latest developments regarding the Murch modernization. Mayor-Elect Bowser toured Murch last year; she understands the incredible need for modernizing the school and supported our efforts last year. What we need to emphasize now is the need for her continued support and that adequate funding for school modernizations, and Murch in particular, must be prioritized among the many building projects desired by people across the District.
Mayor-Elect Bowser takes office on January 2, so this is a great post-holiday activity. Letters can be sent to:
Mayor Muriel Bowser
1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW Suite 316
Washington, DC 20004