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Stoddert Preschool Moves to Guy Mason

By Ally MutnickCurrent Correspondent

Expanding enrollments at Ward 3 schools mean that students, teachers and even recently renovated campuses are feeling the squeeze. The latest to get hit is a Cooperative Play preschool program in Glover Park.

After years operating in Stoddert Recreation Center’s cramped fieldhouse — and then in the renovated Stoddert school and recreation facility — the program is moving to the Guy Mason Recreation Center for the coming school year.

The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, which operates the preschool, launched the move because Stoddert Elementary School needed more classroom space to deal with increased enrollment.

Available in eight different city recreation centers, the Cooperative Play program is open to children ages 18 months to 5 years, depending on the location, and emphasizes socialization to prepare for formal education.

When Stoddert’s facilities were renovated in 2010, the D.C. Public Schools system collaborated with the parks agency to include a recreation center that could be used by residents and the school community. During the renovation, a specific room was built for the Cooperative Play program.

But the elementary population has grown faster than expected. Brian Cohen, chair of the Glover Park advisory neighborhood commission, said that Stoddert added a classroom each for kindergarten, first and second grades this year.

Crowded out at Stoddert, the Cooperative Play program will begin operating at Guy Mason on Sept. 10. Guy Mason manager Ralph Wright has been busy figuring out how to fit the preschool into the center, which reopened after a major renovation a year ago.

The Cooperative Play program will use a large room on the center’s second floor from 9 a.m. to noon on weekdays, he said.

Wright has had to move around some of the classes at Guy Mason to accommodate the program. For example, he’s shifted art and exercise classes from the second floor to the first.

Though Guy Mason serves a large senior population that plays bridge and takes pottery and yoga classes, Wright said the co-op will bring a new age group to the center and create a good “mixture” in the community.

“I’m glad that the co-op is here because there’s a population that we need to serve in this community,” he said. “We have a lot of young adults that have moved in the neighborhoods.”

For some seniors, though, the transition hasn’t been as smooth. Since staff began setting up the upstairs room for the preschoolers, seniors have moved with their programs into tighter spaces downstairs.

Roger Myers, who participates in a weekly yoga class, said the new room accommodates five fewer people than before and that the smaller space can make it hard to do some yoga poses.

“There is demand there for recreation,” he said. “And if we’re stuffed come winter when people want to come, we’re going to have to turn people away.”

But Cohen said he hasn’t heard too many complaints about the switch. He noted that both Stoddert and Guy Mason boast newly renovated facilities within walking distance for families in the neighborhood. “They both work great for a co-op,” he said.

This article appears in the Sept. 5 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.