Georgetown Current

Dumbarton Oaks Park Among Grant Recipients

August 10, 2017

By Grace Bird
Current Staff Writer

The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th birthday by awarding centennial challenge grants to six parks across Northwest D.C., the U.S. secretary of the interior announced last month.

This year, Congress gave $20 million to national parks across the U.S., and park partners added another $33 million. “Many of the national parks that Americans treasure today would simply not exist without the strong partnerships and philanthropy that have benefited the national park idea for over a century,” acting National Park Service director Michael Reynolds said in a news release.

Locally, the Northwest locations receiving funds are Chevy Chase Circle, a section of Rock Creek Park near Massachusetts Avenue, Dumbarton Oaks Park, the Lincoln Memorial, the Carter G. Woodson Home and Mount Vernon Triangle.

At Chevy Chase Circle, sometimes called the “gateway to the nation’s capital,” the park’s friends group received $16,368 in government funds and matched that amount with an additional $17,705. The money will be used to restore bench seating for up to 200 people lining the outskirts of the circle, according to the friends group’s president, Ruth Robbins. Many of the benches, installed in 1956, do not have a seat rail and are “skeletal,” she said.

The group raised the money by sending 6,000 letters to neighbors asking for donations. “And people responded,” Robbins said. “We had a 5 percent return rate, which is unheard of.”

Barbara Price conceived the circle project in 1992, and for 14 years she and a group of friends worked to reimagine the dilapidated park. After Price left the area in 2006, restoration efforts waned. Then, in 2014, Robbins resurrected the friends group and secured nonprofit tax status. Since then, the group has been working to restore and maintain the circle.

On April 17, Robbins’ group planted six new willows courtesy of Casey Trees, to complete a complement of 30 trees around the circle. Then, in May, the group held a “pruning party” where more than 40 volunteers helped trim the circle’s newly planted azaleas. Also, two overgrown traffic triangles were recently freshened up by landscaping company Kristina Kent Garden Design.

Efforts to restore Chevy Chase Circle may have lapsed for several years, but Robbins has no plans now to slow down. Members will soon turn their attention to the curb lining the circle, which Robbins said is only a few inches wide, leaving the circle susceptible to damage from car crashes. However, this effort is complicated by the fact that the circle sits along the Maryland-D.C. line, forcing coordination among federal, District and Maryland authorities.

Robbins also has her sights set on restoring the circle’s aging fountain, although such an effort would cost about $500,000.
The Rock Creek Conservancy also won centennial grant funding to restore a woodland area near Rock Creek Parkway, Massachusetts Avenue and Whitehaven Street NW. The group received $17,000 in federal funds, and raised an additional $71,000 in cash and in-kind donations.

With these funds, Rock Creek Conservancy plans to remove at least 17 invasive species, as well as plant several hundred native trees courtesy of Casey Trees.Next on the calendar is a volunteer tree-planting day, with a date to be announced soon, said conservancy spokesperson Katy Cain.

Meanwhile, Georgetown’s Dumbarton Oaks Conservancy received $320,000 from the federal government to alleviate problems caused by stormwater runoff from nearby properties, and the conservancy is currently raising funds to match that amount. The runoff pollutes the park’s waterways and damages roots of trees and shrubs, according to conservancy president Lindsey Milstein.

The first phase of work has been underway since June of last year, with a scientific and engineering consulting firm contracted at a base fee of $130,000.

Potential design solution include building landform structures to slow the flow of water, directing water into new pools fitted with permeable materials, and retaining runoff in ponds and wetlands. The project is scheduled to wrap up by the end of next year.

“The Centennial Challenge grant is the miracle that opens the door to the Conservancy meeting its mission,” Milstein wrote in an email.

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Hyde-Addison Renovation Underway Following Delays

August 3, 2017


Current Correspondent 

Construction of a long-planned addition to Hyde-Addison Elementary School began this summer, a project that will connect the school’s two buildings but displace students to Meyer Elementary for the next two school years.

The project, which has been in the works for over five years, has been delayed numerous times amid concerns over financial resources, historic preservation and the excavation of a large sewer pipe. Last summer it was deferred yet again as administrators sought to identify an acceptable swing space to send students during the construction.

Work began in June and will continue into the summer of 2019. Modernization of Georgetown’s public elementary school kicked off in 2014 with renovation of the historic Hyde building at 3219 O St. NW. Earlier work took place in 2008, when the long-vacant Addison building at 3246 P St. NW was fully modernized and became part of the same school complex under the Hyde-Addison name.

“DCPS believes that all students should have high-quality learning environments,” D.C. Public Schools spokesperson Janae Hinson wrote in an email. “We are confident that the modernization of Hyde-Addison Elementary School will support the academic program at the school and meet the needs of all students, teachers, and families. The new state-of-the-art building will serve 400 students, include additional spaces for academic and ‘specials’ programming, and create a more cohesive campus.”

In the past month, construction contractor MCN has set up fencing and safety precautions. Meanwhile, arborists removed invasive and unhealthy trees and set up protection for a large elm that will remain on-site throughout the project. Last week, excavation work began on a waterline under the property, which will be relocated to accommodate excavation for the addition, according to a presentation at a May meeting of the project’s School Improvement Team.

At the meeting, plans for the new Hyde-Addison playground were also discussed. A survey of parents, teachers and students indicated that playgrounds, run-around space, outdoor gardens and outdoor quiet areas are the most prioritized options. The playground will include a combination of brick paving, geoturf and sport-court. Final discussions and planning will continue into the fall and water. 

The swing site, too, is being prepared for students’ arrival this fall. The decision to send students to Meyer Elementary in Shaw ignited controversy between parents and city leaders last December, but students will begin at Meyer in the fall. 

Commuting to Meyer Elementary, located at 11th and Euclid streets NW, will take 40 minutes for some Georgetown students. Earlier this summer, the school system met twice with parents to discuss transportation logistics. As with similar projects in the District, school buses will pick up students at their “home school” — Hyde-Addison — and take them to Meyer, which was most recently used as swing space during the now-completed renovation of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. 

This month at Meyer, workers are painting classrooms and installing Smartboards, and they are preparing to remove trailers that aren’t needed for the Hyde-Addison students. Two new playgrounds are being installed, one for ages 2 to 5 and the other for ages 5 to 12.

When Hyde-Addison reopens to students, it will accommodate 400 students and feature new amenities such as a cafeteria-gym space. The old building was designed for 275 students, with enrollment far above that figure.

This article appears in the Aug. 2 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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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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