Downtown area prepares to cope with disruptions from summit

Security personnel set up a perimeter around the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, site of the Nuclear Security Summit. The event was expected to cause widespread disruptions in D.C.
By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 12, 2010

As heads of state from around the world descend on Washington for this week's Nuclear Security Summit, District residents and business owners braced for the headaches that come with tightened security.

A black security fence snaked past the McCullough Terrace Apartments, at Seventh and N streets NW, where Shariff Washington lives.

"This looks like a jail," said Washington, 28, as he left his home Sunday afternoon.

Next door is the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, where President Obama and more than 40 world leaders will meet Monday and Tuesday to discuss how to prevent nuclear materials from falling into terrorists' hands.

The fence is part of a security perimeter that is expected to cause widespread disruptions. A vast grid of roads will be closed to traffic and parking. The Mount Vernon Square Metro station will be closed, and 13 bus lines will be rerouted.

In anticipation of gridlock, Center City Charter School closed its Shaw campus for two days, giving students a homework packet to complete in place of coming to class.

"We were hopeful that we would able to manage the logistics in such a way that we could safely and practically keep the school open, but it turned out it was too much of a logistical challenge," said Ralph Boyd, chairman of the school's board of directors.

The loss of two instructional days comes just weeks before students take the DC-CAS test, required under the federal No Child Left Behind law. On last year's DC-CAS, 38 percent of students at Center City's Shaw campus scored proficient in reading, and 22 percent were proficient in math. Repeated poor performance on the test can lead to sanctions against the school. To maximize test-preparation time, school officials extended the school day on four Fridays in April to make up for days lost during snowstorms.

"The timing's unfortunate," Boyd said of the nuclear summit. "But we accept it as one of the prices that you pay for being in the nation's capital and having world governance unfolding before you."

Businesses are working around the security measures.

Simeret Nega, owner of the First Cup Cafe at M and Ninth streets NW, said she had three days' worth of food delivered Sunday in anticipation of the road closures. She said she thought business would be buoyed by hundreds of hungry police and security officers patrolling the area around the convention center.

But at Wagtime, a day-care center for dogs across the street from the convention center, half of the clients with dog-grooming appointments Monday had canceled.

Some residents wondered how they would manage.

Harry Moore, 70, receives dialysis three times a week. A Washington Elderly Handicapped Transportation Service van usually picks him up outside his N Street home. His next treatment is Monday, when N Street will be closed. Moore said he hadn't heard anything about alternative pickup arrangements.

"I'm hoping they're going to be able to come," he said.

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