Dear Mayor Bowser,
The Murch Elementary School community is grateful for your past support of the school’s modernization. You have said that this project is your highest priority for school renovation. We need your help now to make sure the final project is one that truly serves the needs of our children.
Planning for the Murch modernization began in earnest in 2014 when a feasibility study demonstrated that the site could not fit the required programmatic elements without significant portions of the building going below ground. Last year, you and members of the DC Council appropriated the funding that the Department of General Services (DGS) assured us all was sufficient to build a school that meets the programmatic needs of 700-730 elementary school children.
Now that we are four months from the scheduled start of construction, DC Public Schools (DCPS) Chief Operating Officer Nathaniel Beers informed the Murch School Improvement Team that the project has been underfunded by $10 million. DGS and DCPS admitted that they were grossly incorrect in their estimation of the project costs. What was clear, however, was that DCPS was not working to make the additional $10 million available to proceed as planned. Instead DCPS is attempting to drastically and hastily alter the approved design.
This is not about bells and whistles, or fancy extras. It is about the essentials for a school that will serve children for generations to come. The design presented to the community this past July was a careful compromise between the school, the community, the neighborhood, the Commission on Fine Arts, the Historic Preservation Board, and the National Park Service. Everyone involved agreed to the compromise design because they understood that children could not continue to be educated in an overcrowded, crumbling building.
The alternative designs that DCPS has now presented to the Murch School Improvement Team would have substantial negative impacts on the programmatic functions of the school and the safety of the students attending the school. Among other things, the proposed changes could leave a school for 700-730 students without a cafeteria. By significantly reducing space for educational programming and play space, these changes would force taxpayers to spend millions of dollars to build a school that does not meet the students’ basic educational needs. That is unacceptable to the Murch community and should be unacceptable to our city leadership.
We need your help to ensure that this project has the funding necessary to meet the needs of children and teachers for years to come. Please don’t force children to sacrifice their education because of mistakes made by those in charge of this process.