KIPP DC, Two Rivers charters to lease shuttered District schools in Northeast

Correction: An earlier version of this story did not note that Two Rivers Public Charter Schools will maintain one of its two current campuses. It has been corrected.

September 18, 2013

Two high-performing public charter schools will lease shuttered D.C. school buildings in Northeast, Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced Wednesday.

KIPP DC will move its high school to the site of the former Hamilton School at 1401 Brentwood Parkway NE, while Two Rivers Public Charter School will create a preK-8th program at the Charles E. Young Elementary School at 820 26th NE. Two Rivers will maintain one of its two current campuses at 4th and Florida Avenue NE.

“KIPP DC and Two Rivers are great examples of the success of public charter schools in the District of Columbia and I am excited to see them serve more students and continue to build on their success,” Gray said in a statement.

KIPP DC plans to demolish the Hamilton school and build a new 120,000-square-foot KIPP DC College Preparatory School, with adjoining athletic fields, in its place. KIPP DC operates 12 schools at all grade levels in the District but the new KIPP DC College Preparatory School will be its first standalone high school.

KIPP DC and Gallaudet University, which is adjacent to the Hamilton School, are discussing a possible partnership focused on teacher training, student internships, security, transportation and community service, according to District officials. The new building will allow KIPP DC College Preparatory School to basically double in size to 850 students. The Hamilton building was shuttered at the end of last school year.

Two Rivers Public Charter School, which has about 500 students in preschool through 8th grade at two buildings on Florida Avenue NE, will also be able to double its enrollment at the former Charles E. Young school. The building has been closed since 2008.

“Last year, more than 1,800 students applied for fewer than 35 seats at Two Rivers,” said Jessica Wodatch, the school’s chief executive. “Expanding to the Young site will enable us to offer more high-quality seats for D.C. kids to experience our vibrant, engaging education. We also look forward to partnering with the dedicated members of the Carver Langston community.”

More than 40 percent of the District’s public school students attend charters, which are publicly funded but operate independently of D.C. Public Schools. Although D.C. law gives public charter schools a legal preference when it comes to the disposal of shuttered DCPS school buildings, charter advocates have long complained that the city government has been slow to release the schools.

Real estate is a major obstacle for charter schools, which are often forced to rent or buy commercial property and divert money from classrooms to deal with a burden unknown to traditional schools.

Gray administration officials announced in May that 16 surplus DCPS buildings would be released for short- or long-term lease by charter schools. In addition to Hamilton and Young, the city is considering applications for the former Shaed Elementary School at 301 Douglas Street NE and the Winston Education Campus at 3100 Erie Street SE.

Lyndsey Layton has been covering national education since 2011, writing about everything from parent trigger laws to poverty’s impact on education to the shifting politics of school reform.
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