Letter to the Editor: Old Hardy School is needed for public use

The Lab School of Washington leases the former Hardy School in Foxhall. (Brian Kapur/The Current/January 2017)

D.C. Council Bill B22-0153, “The Hardy School Disposition and Lease Agreement Act of 2017,” is a naked attempt by the mayor and D.C. Council to bestow a public asset (the old Hardy School at 4470 Q St. NW) upon a wealthy private interest (the Lab School), notwithstanding the public’s need for the facility to address serious D.C. Public Schools overcrowding and/or provide special needs education in Ward 3. Expect council members to try to ram the legislation through — with no public input — in the chaos of the session’s final days, much as they did last year, when Education Committee chair David Grosso introduced “emergency” legislation to benefit Lab in the 11th hour of the 2016 session.

Fifth-graders at Key Elementary have now been taking their classes in two double-wide construction trailers for seven years. Similar overcrowding problems exist at Stoddert, Mann and other Ward 3 schools. Why would our elected leaders express a preference for Lab’s wealthy suburban students — their overwhelming core constituency — to the detriment of Ward 3’s D.C. Public Schools students and families for the next 50 years, which is the term of the proposed lease?

While it would be easy to view this attempt as yet another example of public wealth and assets spiraling upward to the well-heeled, it also appears to signal that the city is giving up on solving the school system’s overcrowding and special education issues. And there is certainly no indication that the overcrowding will abate — the District’s population is in constant growth. By the time Lab’s current lease expires in 2023, Ward 3 families will be even more desperate for this facility. What is the plan of those who would regale Lab with old Hardy? Buy land at a premium and construct a new school? Perhaps another $180 million debacle like the recent Duke Ellington School of the Arts renovation?

Elected leaders need to refrain from their preference for monied interests above those of our D.C. Public Schools students if they truly want to improve public education in the District.

Peter Watkins, The Palisades