D.C. Public Schools are evaluating the possibility of relocating the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and converting the building located on the corner of 3–5th and R Streets NW into a public, comprehensive high school for D.C.’s Ward 2.
According to The Washington Post, D.C. School Construction Chief Allen Y. Lew’s office developed cost estimates for the relocation of Ellington to the currently empty Logan Elementary School building near Union Station. D.C. Public Schools spokesperson Jennifer Calloway said there are no immediate plans to move the school. The Logan building housed the School Without Walls, a high school that draws from all eight wards and uses non-traditional teaching methods, for two years before it moved back to its renovated building in Foggy Bottom last fall. When the Logan School became vacant, Calloway said that relocating Duke Ellington became a possibility.
“When [Logan], a former school building, recently became vacant, the Administration decided to begin researching an exhaustive list of possibilities for the space, Ellington was one item on a laundry list of ideas,” said Calloway.
Ruth Warner, a representative of D.C. Councilman Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), said that Evans is open to the idea of moving the Duke Ellington School to a location in the city that is more accessible by mass transit. Ward 2 is the only ward that does not currently have its own neighborhood high school.
Some parents at Duke Ellington are concerned about the school’s potential relocation, and believe that it may send a negative message from the Georgetown community, as Ellington’s students hail from all over D.C., as well as from Maryland and Virginia, according to Micelle Reaux, president of the School Home Association of Duke Ellington, a parent-teacher association.
She said that no parents or school officials have been part of discussions with D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee or D.C. Public Schools about moving the school thus far.
“We all are shocked, frustrated, and disappointed by this news that has reached us mainly through the press,” Reaux said.
Founded in 1974, the Duke Ellington School is the only D.C. public high school that provides students with a full academic course load in addition to professional arts training in disciplines such as dance, music, theater and visual arts, according to its Web site.
Reaux said she is worried that the new location will not have the features needed to accommodate Duke Ellington’s arts program. DCPS has spent millions of dollars investing in the current Duke Ellington location. If DCPS cannot afford to make renovations to the Logan building, Reaux believes the arts program at Duke Ellington may be discontinued.
The representative at Evans’ office said that DCPS will make the necessary renovations to the Logan school building in order to adapt to the Duke Ellington arts program, just as the building was altered to accommodate the School Without Walls.
Reaux said that only 5 percent of Ward 2 residents are under the age of 18, mitigating the need for a neighborhood high school.
“It seems as though any move to a new facility is not motivated by having the students’ best interest in mind, but would be strictly politically motivated,” Reaux said. “When that is the motivation, the students are generally on the losing end.”