Ward 4 Middle Grades Update

In our last post on Coolidge and a possible Ward 4 North Middle School, we shared information about a middle grades option as a part of Coolidge High School’s upcoming building modernization. Over the past year we’ve gathered input from hundreds of stakeholders excited about the possible opening of middle grades alongside Coolidge. With nearly $160 million in Coolidge’s modernization budget, it’s an exciting time for an investment in Ward 4 schools.

Last night (12/19), DCPS Chancellor John Davis made the official announcement to the Coolidge Community Working Group that DCPS is opening these middle grades in School Year 2019-2020.

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Coolidge Working Group members weigh in on Chancellor Davis’ announcement of new middle grades as part of Coolidge’s modernization and possible application models at Coolidge (December 19, 2016 – Coolidge HS)

A new middle school is exciting to us at DCPS and for many of our parents, staff, and community members. We still have a lot of work to do. We’ll be gathering more input around grade configuration (6 to 12 model vs. individual middle and high school), possible application-based models for Coolidge, and the impact on the neighborhood education campuses at Brightwood, LaSalle-Backus, Whittier, and Takoma. We’ll be posting more about that process soon, so stay tuned and please reach out to us at DCPS.Planning@dc.gov with any questions or comments.

The announcement letter from DCPS Chief Operating Officer, Carla Watson is below in English, Spanish, French, and Amharic.

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Collecting Input on Potential Ward 4 North Middle School

This post breaks down the details of the potential Ward 4 Middle School opening. One important note is that if the middle school is opened, it wouldn’t happen until School Year 2019-2020. Not this year, the next year, or the year after that. Current third graders at the feeder education campuses would be the first sixth graders if opened.

Background

In 2014, the Deputy Mayor for Education’s office recommended the opening of a new middle school in Ward 4 (New North) as part of its final boundary and feeder assignment recommendations.  This recommendation would open a new middle school in northern Ward 4, converting the four education campuses that currently feed into Coolidge to elementary schools (PK-5th grade instead of PK-8th grade). Those schools are Brightwood, Whittier, Lasalle-Backus, and Takoma Education Campuses.

Two driving factors behind this recommendation were parent/community input and the space constraints at the four education campuses. During the boundary and feeder recommendation community engagement process, parents and community members expressed desire for more stand-alone middle school options, giving both elementary and middle school students more of a traditional elementary and middle school experience. In addition, the education campuses feeding into Coolidge are facing the challenge of growing enrollment that is approaching the capacity in their buildings. Opening a middle school and moving the middle grades there would relieve some of that pressure.

Opportunity

One of the biggest challenges in opening this potential middle school has been securing the space and capital funding to build it. The upcoming modernization of Coolidge High School is an opportunity to have both the space and funding for a middle school, by including a middle school build in the scope of the work being done on Coolidge. There is both money in Coolidge’s modernization budget of roughly $160 million, and space on Coolidge’s south lawn (see below) for middle school construction. In the recently completed feasibility study for Coolidge’s modernization, two of the three options include the construction of a middle school.

coolidge-south-lawn   The Coolidge campus has sufficient space in its south lawn to construct a middle school.

middle-school-renderingArchitect rendering from feasibility study of possible middle school build south of Coolidge High School building.

Gathering Input

In addition to securing space and budget, another important piece in the decision on whether to open a middle school is parent, staff, and community input — do the parents at Brightwood, Whittier, Lasalle-Backus, and Takoma Education Campuses want a stand-alone middle school? Do the teachers and staff? Community members living in the Coolidge boundary? We on the School Planning Team have been working to answer those questions since last spring, with parent meetings, student focus groups, regular Coolidge Community Working Group meetings, and a survey we put out to parents and staff at Coolidge feeder schools.

As the DCPS Facilities Team collects feedback on the Coolidge feasibility study, the Planning Team will continue to analyze enrollment and academic data and meet with Coolidge Community Members, particularly parents from Coolidge’s four feeder education campuses: Lasalle-Backus, Brightwood, Takoma, and Whittier. DCPS will need to make a final decision on the potential middle school by late fall in order to stay on track with Coolidge’s construction timeline. We’ve met with parents at Brightwood and Whittier already, and have upcoming meetings at Lasalle-Backus (10/6) and Takoma (10/20). We are also meeting with school staff along with regular meetings with the Coolidge Community Working Group.

whittierWhittier parents discussing potential middle school and building modernization.lbec1lbec2                                     Lasalle-Backus families filling out the survey at Back to School night

If you’d like to weigh in, please click on the relevant survey link for your language. The results of our survey up to 9/21/16 are below.

Ward 4 North Middle School Survey – English and Spanish

Ward 4 North Middle School Survey – French

Ward 4 North Middle School Survey – Amharic

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Coolidge Community Working Group Reviews Feasibility Study

The Coolidge Community Working Group met last week to review the feasibility study for Coolidge’s building modernization, providing feedback on three different options for the modernization. The three options are for a comprehensive high school, and two different possibilities for a potential middle school on Coolidge’s grounds at 5th and Sheridan. Stay tuned to the planning blog for more on the potential middle school option.

See below for meeting notes and the full feasibility study.

Coolidge Feasibility Study

Coolidge Working Group – Feasibility Study Review Meeting Notes

Coolidge Community Working Group Takes First Steps towards Modernization

The Coolidge Community Working Group met on Thursday, June 30th for its first meeting with the architects of the building feasibility study. The Working Group provided some initial input that will help inform the feasibility study, which is the first step in making a proposed modernization a reality. For more details on that process, check out the meeting notes below.

Working Group members started with a walk-through of the Coolidge facility followed by a presentation from Josh Tuch (DCPS Facilities) and HOK Architects. Members discussed key questions in small groups and shared their input with Josh and the HOK team.  The group, which includes parents, teachers, administrators, DCPS Central Office employees, and community members, will continue to meet with the architects until the feasibility study completes in the fall.

Meeting notes are here, the architect’s presentation is here, and some photos and highlights from the meeting are below. Special shout-out to Whittier parent and Working Group member Julie Lawson for her kind words and play-by-play twitter coverage of the meeting. Definitely #FF (do people still say that? No? Okay, well we recommend following her anyway). The next meeting will be in late August, exact date TBD.

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Terry Going, Coolidge alumnus, leads a group of parents and community members through the school’s outdoor garden and sitting area. The group was impressed by the sheer size of the green space available to students.
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Coolidge alumnus Terry Going points out a historic sign from the World-War 2 era, a small piece of history built into the school.
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Community members discuss the status of Coolidge’s outdoor athletic facilities, possible upgrades, and access to the public and the neighborhood.
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Architect Stefan Jaborek discusses with parents and community members how to unite goals of efficiency, practicality, accessibility, and beauty for the school’s facilities. Jaborek and his colleagues Quinton Pop and Katrik Shah work for HOK, an international architecture firm focused on efficient, environmentally-friendly modernization and beautification.
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The group surveys a science classroom and discusses issues of space and adaptability – certain parents and community members begin making recommendations for the new modernized school (e.g. expandable lab tables)
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Coolidge alumnus Terry Goings shows the group one of two gymnasiums on the school’s campus. The school is 271,000 sq. ft., which is the size of five White Houses or more than one and a half Capitol Buildings.
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After the walkthrough, the group sits to hear a presentation on the mission and goals for the project. DCPS Facilities Coordinator Josh Tuch leads the discussion, setting the group up for a productive brainstorm session and open discussion.
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Coolidge Principal Richard Jackson and alumnus Terry Goings share ideas about outdoor spaces for students. The group talked about safety, natural light, and the use of space. Other discussion topics included: teaching and learning, community engagement, and interaction between neighboring schools, among several others.
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Josh Tuch (DCPS Facilities) opens up a discussion following a brainstorming session where community members shared their opinions and ideas on each topic.
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Julie Lawson, a Whittier parent of twitter fame, shares her small group’s ideas.
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Principal Jackson shares his thoughts about academics at Coolidge and the needs of his students.

Coolidge Community Working Group Members

The Coolidge Community Working Group (CWG) is coming together for its second meeting this Thursday evening for a building walk-through and a meeting with the feasibility study architects. We on the School Planning and Facilities teams at DCPS have had an opportunity to meet one on one with most of the group members, and are excited about the folks who have come together to engage around their neighborhood high school. The members, along with their connection to Coolidge High School, are below.

Name Connection to Coolidge SHS
Alexis Richburg Coolidge Staff Member
Allen V. Banks Coolidge Staff Member
Andrea Browning Community Member/Neighbor
Andrella Smith Coolidge Alumnus/Alumna
Charles Anthony Woods, I Coolidge Parent
Courtney Savoy Coolidge Staff Member
Dawn Person Coolidge Alumnus/Alumna
Diane Jackson Whittier EC Parent
Elizabeth Roen Prospective parent
Frank Jones III ANC Commissioner
Howard A. Burnett Coolidge Alumnus/Alumna
Julie Lawson Whittier EC Parent
MaryEllen McGuire Community Member/Neighbor
Megan Fitzgerald Prospective parent
Michael Cohen Community Member/Neighbor
Nancy Smith Community Member/Neighbor
Peter Sprunger Whittier EC Parent
Randi Williams Community Member/Neighbor
Ricardo Campos LaSalle-­‐Backus EC Staff Member
Robert Bettmann Prospective parent
Sarah Raskin Takoma EC Parent
Scot Knickerbocker ANC 4B03
Shawn Ruffing Coolidge Alumnus/Alumna
Shirley Richardson Community Member/Neighbor
Terry Goings Community Member/Neighbor

Coolidge Community Working Group Notes

It’s been a while since our last Coolidge update. We’re excited about this one because it’s the first of many more over the coming months and years as we begin the school’s modernization process. The Coolidge Working Group officially kicked off this week with its first meeting on Tuesday, May 10th. Notes are here, recap below.

The Coolidge Community Working Group is unique because it combines responsibilities typically associated with a Community Cabinet (school programming) with those typically associated with a School Improvement Team (building modernization). Because both processes are starting at the same time, members have an opportunity to give input on both the modernized school building and some of the elements that go inside of it.

At Tuesday’s meeting we asked the group to begin thinking about how we should gather feedback about the school from the larger network of prospective parents and community members. It was a rich discussion among our stakeholders and an energizing start to the project for all of us at DCPS. Coolidge buzz is growing!

Coolidge High School Needs Your Input

Applications are now open for the Coolidge High School Community Cabinet and School Improvement Team (SIT)! To learn more and apply, fill out the google form here. Below are informational links describing in more detail the responsibilities and function of each group.

Questions? Contact DCPS.Planning

090115 Community Cabinet_Frequently Asked Questions

SIT Overview