Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Is AppleTree Vacating Southwest?

Currently, two out of seven AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School campuses are located in Southwest, serving nearly 80 three and four year-olds with a significant percentage of students being Southwest residents. After the end of this school year, though, both of those campuses will close. The Amidon-Bowen campus at 4th and I streets, in addition to the Riverside Baptist Church campus, located at 7th Street and Maine Avenue, will be closing. The charter school has been at Amidon-Bowen since 2008 and Riverside Baptist Church since 2005. AppleTree needs to leave Amidon-Bowen because there is demand for classroom space for DCPS children since enrollment is up at the school and Riverside Baptist Church may be redeveloped similar to St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church a block away. 

Riverside Baptist Church

In order to help AppleTree maintain a presence in Southwest, ANC 6D Commissioner Stacy Cloyd authored a resolution to urge the District government to allow the charter school to place a temporary trailer on the abandoned tennis courts at Jefferson Academy, located across the street from Riverside. A second set of tennis courts on the northwestern part of Jefferson’s grounds at 9th and G streets were renovated in 2012 thanks to the Washington Kastles Mylar World Team Tennis organization. There would be four modular classrooms to serve up to 40 children in the trailer. There is insufficient space currently inside Jefferson to house AppleTree since the Edgewood/Brookland Family Support Collaborative is opening a satellite office in the school building. The Collaborative currently has an office at St. Augustine’s, but the church building will be closing in June to make way for The Wharf project. 

Jefferson Academy from Maine Avenue

This trailer would be temporary, since AppleTree will be moving to The Wharf once phase one is complete in 2017. The main logistical issue is, though, that Jefferson Academy is scheduled to begin a multimillion dollar modernization in 2016, which could place AppleTree in limbo for a year between when they would need to vacate Jefferson and when they could move to The Wharf. At one point, AppleTree was considering purchasing the former Southeastern University campus building, but now the Shakespeare Theatre Company is proposing an actors' campus for that site.

At the April meeting, the commissioners debated the issue and added amendments to the resolution, which would explicitly state that AppleTree would need to leave the tennis courts once Jefferson’s modernization begins and the school would need to report back to the community their exit plan for the trailers after one year. Other concerns the commissioners had about the plan included where students will be dropped off and picked up, as well as where they will recreate. 

Present at the meeting to support the plan were representatives from AppleTree as well as Principal Natalie Gordon from Jefferson Academy. While Principal Gordon was generally supportive of AppleTree’s plan, she expressed concern that the charter school’s presence in the tennis courts should not interfere with, or delay for any reason, the planned modernization of Jefferson. The modernization was already delayed once and Gordon does not want the project to be delayed for a second time. The resolution was passed unanimously by the commissioners.

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