Georgetown Current

British International School Continues Renovation Push

July 27, 2017

By Alexa Perlmutter

Current Correspondent


Renovations are underway at the British International School of Washington as the 2001 Wisconsin Ave. NW campus prepares to welcome a record number of students this fall.


The school’s location in the federally protected Georgetown Historic District complicates exterior changes to the building, but administrators have been working to make better use of the existing interior. Perhaps the biggest change came in 2015, when the school renovated the top floor of its building to add classroom space.


“It was a concrete shell,” said Dan Stewart, the school’s site operations leader and building manager. Under “our original lease, we only had three levels. Now we have four levels and the basement. The top floor now has 15 classrooms, a lounge for IB students, a nice new art room and an auditorium.”


This summer, the school is following the lead of its Nord Anglia Education parent company to dress up the building’s interior. 

“We’re trying to brighten things up,” Stewart said. “We’re adding offices to the Wisconsin lobby on the first floor. Lots of glass walls — we’re trying to open the environment up. We’re changing all of the bulbs in the interior hallways to day-bulbs. They’ve done some research that that’s supposed to help out in the classroom.”


This summer’s work also involves rebranding the interior with Nord Anglia’s blue, teal and white color scheme, after the company brought the school under its umbrella in 2013. 


The British International School serves students in the equivalent of pre-K through 12th grade, using an international curriculum shared among Nord Anglia’s 40-plus schools around the world. Tuition ranges from $13,100 for part-time 2-year-olds to $33,540 for high school seniors. 

According to principal Ian Piper, the school will have a record enrollment of about 520 students in the 2017-18 school year, up by about 30 students from 2016-17.


School administrators credit the recent campus renovations — along with recent partnerships with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Juilliard — with helping recruit and retain a vibrant student body.


“We take best practices in facilities and curriculum from other schools and try to implement them in our school. It’s nice being a bigger network,” Stewart said.


Mike Henderson, head of the school’s secondary education, said the program’s profile is rising. 

“Word seems to be spreading not just around the national community, but the local community now,” Henderson said. “We are connecting with a lot of residents who we haven’t previously had contact with.” 


One marketing push is on hold, though, due to Georgetown’s historic protections. School spokesperson Jennifer Clarke said British International wanted to put up a translucent sign on the doors of the Wisconsin Avenue entrance to better advertise the school, but has had to re-evaluate its plans and is instead considering putting a sign on the interior glass. New signs in the garage will be installed this summer.

Other future plans include a new cafeteria in the basement space, a project Stewart predicts will be completed in the next two years. No outward expansion of the building is expected. 


“The recent and current developments are all taking place on our property,” Henderson said. “We’re not acquiring extra buildings or building out. We are making really good use of our existing space.”


This article appears in the July 26 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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Dumbarton Oaks Closes Gardens for Pipe Project

July 20, 2017

By Alexa Perlmutter
Current Correspondent

The formal gardens of Dumbarton Oaks — acquired by Harvard University in 1940 — are currently undergoing stormwater remediation efforts and will be closed until March 15, 2018.

The museum and main house on the site will remain open throughout the renovations, and the adjacent Dumbarton Oaks Park owned by the National Park Service is also unaffected.

The entirety of Dumbarton Oaks, located in north Georgetown east of Wisconsin Avenue, was originally owned by Robert and Mildred Bliss, who financed the gardens. In 1940, the Bliss family gave the formal gardens and research collection to Harvard University, while the lower 27 acres of wild gardens went to the National Park Service.

The original irrigation and water management pipes that still run through the Harvard-owned gardens are made of terra cotta. Coming up on the 100th birthday of the gardens, which were designed originally by trailblazing architect Beatrix Farrand, the mile-long stretch of pipes need to be revamped, according to Dumbarton Oaks communications manager Erica Bogese.

The pipes have been crumbling and cracking for years, limiting the amount of water that can reach certain areas of the garden. To properly hydrate the estate, Bogese said, gardeners have to pull hoses around the property; there is no proper sprinkler system. The replacement pipes will be made of polyvinyl chloride, which have a longer lifespan than the existing ones.

“No one was designing water management systems with the environment in mind,” Bogese noted. “Renovating the irrigation system will allow us to be more eco-friendly.”

The pipes were originally installed in the 1920s under the guidance of Farrand, who also designed gardens at the Washington National Cathedral and New York’s Hyde Park.

Farrand’s vision and the garden’s beauty will be preserved throughout the process, according to Bogese. Managers of the property worked with conservators and designers before the closure to ensure that her designs are unaffected. “If we do it right, no one will see a difference,” Bogese said.

The updates to the property, according to Bogese, demonstrate Dumbarton Oaks’ commitment to being a good neighbor and hopefully will attract more visitors to the garden and museum — “the hidden gem of the city,” she said.

When the gardens reopen to the public in March, however, that will not be the end of upcoming improvements to the original Dumbarton Oaks property. The public park is currently in the early phases of its own two-year pipe and irrigation restoration project, according to Dumbarton Oaks Conservancy president Lindsey Milstein.

“It’s pure serendipity that both sites are going through stormwater remediation efforts at around the same time,” Milstein told The Current. “Although [the gardens] are now under separate ownership, it is one design. It is one piece of art, and one part needs the other to really shine.”

The park updates will be implemented next spring, according to Milstein.

This article appears in the July 19 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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Turkish Journalist Plans Café in Georgetown

July 13, 2017

By Mark Lieberman
Current Staff Writer

Emel Bayrak — a Georgetown resident and White House correspondent for a Turkish broadcasting service — plans to open a new coffee shop and wine bar in her neighborhood where she might eventually host and film interviews with government officials.

Café Georgetown at 3141 N St. NW, just east of Paolo’s Ristorante on Wisconsin Avenue, plans to sell French pastries, beer and wine. But its primary feature will be coffee from the Philadelphia-based roaster La Colombe, which has five D.C. locations. Bayrak is seeking a beer and wine license that also includes an entertainment endorsement.

“Coffee shops create a coffee culture [and] bring people together. It creates a community where one can exchange ideas, jokes, and make new friends. That’s what I hope to achieve at Café Georgetown,” Bayrak wrote in an email. “I want it to bring together people from many backgrounds — my Georgetown neighbors, students, the diplomatic community, and friends from the White House.”

In an interview, Bayrak said she started working on the business plan for her shop in 2011. Searching for a location took several years, but she ultimately landed just three blocks from her Volta Place home, far closer than she’d anticipated.

The store’s alcohol license would allow maximum hours of 6 a.m. to midnight seven days per week, with live entertainment permitted from 8 a.m. to midnight.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith) and the Citizens Association of Georgetown both voted this month to protest the cafe’s alcohol license application on the basis of peace, order and quiet. Representatives from both said at last Thursday’s ANC 2E meeting that they need more details about potential noise impacts before getting on board.

“This would not be live music,” Bayrak’s liquor license attorney Sidon Yohannes explained at the meeting. “It would be the operator conducting interviews and then streaming them.”

Bayrak hasn’t finalized her plans for that component yet, but she’s hoping to invite prominent government officials for informal interviews that might eventually end up on YouTube or in podcast form.

Bayrak told The Current she hopes to open the coffee shop in August. ANC 2E’s Lisa Palmer said she plans to meet with the establishment’s attorney on July 12 in hopes of reaching a settlement agreement.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has scheduled a protest hearing for the beer and wine license for Sept. 20.

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