Bowser backs public education use for Stevens School

The historic Stevens School is slated for renovations as part of Akridge's redevelopment of its former playground. (Susann Shin/The Current/April 2017)

The administration of Mayor Muriel Bowser currently favors a public education use for the future of the now-vacant Stevens School in the West End, according to Bowser’s Ward 2 liaison Richard Livingstone.

The city is pursuing a new education provider to fill the vacant Stevens School space at 1050 21st St. NW. Earlier this year, D.C. Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson decided to drop a special-needs program to be run by Ivymount from the project, which involves developer Akridge renovating the 1860s-era school in exchange for the rights to construct an adjacent 10-story office building.

At the July 19 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A (Foggy Bottom, West End), Livingstone told residents the Bowser administration considers a possible public school its current top choice for the site. Bowser and Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans have both expressed support for installing a new School Without Walls campus there, though using the site for a new public school is also an option. The city has also not ruled out a charter school for the site, according to Livingstone.

Livingstone also reported that Bowser wants a “truncated” timeline for deciding the site’s future and installing a new education program. “She wants a school there sooner rather than later,” he said.

The site will be the subject of community meetings later this summer, and the city’s decision is expected by the end of the year, Livingstone said.

ANC 2A and ANC 2B (Dupont Circle) have both voted in recent weeks to request a new School Without Walls campus at the West End site, in an effort to satiate high demand. School Without Walls serves pre-K through eighth grade at 2425 N St. NW and ninth through 12th grades at 2130 G St. NW, with waiting lists at both campuses.

But that proposal has competition. West End resident Don McGovern of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools plans to partner with George Washington University on an elementary public charter in the neighborhood, potentially at the Stevens School site, McGovern said at Wednesday’s ANC 2A meeting.

The project team for that program, which includes McGovern’s wife, Red Cross president and CEO Gail McGovern, was scheduled to discuss the Stevens School site this week during a meeting with the office of Deputy Mayor for Education Jennie Niles, Don McGovern said at the July 19 meeting.

Several other charter schools, including one that vied with Ivymount for the slot during initial negotiations in 2012, have recently expressed interest in the site as well.

In 2008, the city merged Stevens Elementary with nearby Francis Junior High to create the Francis-Stevens Education Campus — which itself was pegged for closure in 2012. Amid neighborhood outcry, the District instead brought Francis-Stevens under the leadership of the acclaimed Walls magnet program, resulting in soaring enrollment and long waiting lists.