Concerned residents and school administrators of the Georgetown, Burleith and Glover Park neighborhoods gathered to express their opposition to the management transfer of Duke Ellington Field at a Jan. 15 community meeting.
In July, the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation announced its intent to take over control of the field from District of Columbia Public Schools. The meeting, hosted by DPR, was held at the Georgetown Neighborhood Library and drew a crowd of approximately 100 residents who voiced their concerns to representatives from DPR and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education.
At the meeting, administrators and parents from Hardy Middle School, School Without Walls High School and Duke Ellington School of the Arts expressed concern that their sports teams’ access to the field will decrease following the management transfer.
There are other recreational spaces around Washington, D.C., that would be better served from DPR management than Ellington Field, according to Martin Welles, vice president of Hardy Middle School PTO.
“Why not some other field throughout the city, and I can name about four or five, that already have lights, that already have unused space — why don’t you go target those fields, let this one sit for a little bit?” Welles said at the meeting. “Why don’t you start cleaning house on some of these long-term contracts that deprive the citizens of their right to the fields that are paid for and maintained by taxpayer dollars?”
Local schools’ access to the field will not be affected by the transfer, according to Tommie Jones Jr., DPR chief of external affairs who led the meeting and fielded most of the questions.
“DPR will permit and manage the field under the regulations during hours not scheduled by public schools” Jones said at the meeting. “Duke Ellington, Hardy and School Without Walls will have first priority. We’re not hiding away from it.”
Last September, Georgetown residents pushed back against DPR’s granting of exclusive after-school hour access to Jelleff Field, a recreational space in Georgetown, to a prestigious Northwest D.C. private school.
Fears that a similar arrangement would occur with Duke Ellington Field are a major reason for community opposition, according to Advisory Neighborhood 2E Commissioner Kishan Putta.
DPR’s communications with the community over the terms of the Jelleff Field transfer were inadequate, which led Putta to seek written confirmation from the department over the specifics of its plan for Ellington Field, he wrote.
“They gave written assurance of school priority, BUT not about long-term private contracts or neighborhood access,” Putta wrote in a statement to The Hoya. “I asked again last week – they said that is their intention – but I said we need it written. The neighbors and the schools are worried DPR won’t listen to them – after feeling completely ignored by Jelleff decision.”
Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who represented the Georgetown neighborhood on the council as well as other sections of the District, announced his official resignation from the D.C. Council in a Jan. 7 letter following accusations of ethical misconduct. A special election to fill Ward 2’s open seat will be held June 16.
Evans’ resignation leaves residents without representation on the council. Some residents believe the transfer should not be attempted until his seat is filled, according to Putta.
“At the meeting, dozens of residents and school representatives spoke and not one of them said they support the transfer. Most were very much against the transfer – both residents and schools,” Putta wrote. “Many think it definitely should not be transferred until Ward 2 has a new Councilmember (after June 16 special election). And they feel that if the priority is schools and neighbors, then DCPS should continue to manage it – like they do at fields citywide.”
In response to community concerns, DPR has extended the commenting period, which was set to end in January, until Feb. 12.