The Marie H. Reed Community Learning Center in Adams Morgan is a study of a neighborhood at work and play.
Inside, a group of local women socialize and make plans for a forthcoming community project. Students on their way to lunch scurry down the hallway ramp that leads from the second floor.
High-pitched laughter rings throughout the waiting room of the ground floor clinic as mothers chase their toddlers. Out front, in the bright spring sunshine, two men play tennis on the center's tennis courts.
Later this particular afternoon, senior citizens and youths, laborers and white-collar workers, blacks, whites, Hispanics and all the other people who are the heartbeat of this culturally diversified community will come to participate in one of Reed's social or academic programs.
The center, named for the late Bishop Marie H. Reed, a local ministers and civic leader, is at 18th and California streets, NW and is bounded by Ontario Road on the east and Kalorama Road on the north.
Yet to many local people Reed's boundaries are even simpler. John Anthony, principal of the center's school, views it as the "hull of the total community."
About one-third of the space at the center is an open-space school for children from pre-school through seventh grade. It is part of the D.C Public School system. The other two-thirds of the center is for community-related activities.
Services provided by Reed were decided upon by the residents themselves.
For instance, on the ground floor of the complex is a free children's clinic and a part-time adult clinic managed by the Department of Human Resources. Medical services are administered by employees from Children's Hospital, said Anthony.
The clinic director is Dr. Rosella Castro. The children's clinic is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays. On Wednesday and Thursday, a part-time clinic serves adults. The clinic's 17-member staff includes pediatricians, practical and registered nurses and a clerical staff. Castro said a nutritionist, social worker and psychologist also are available for the nearly 300 patients who come to the clinic each week.
DHR eventually will open a dental clinic at the center and a day and evening child care center, equipped to accommodate 50 children, said Anthony.
Another activity, the after-school education program, where students and parents can attend classes separately or together, has become popular, said assistant principal Tessie Wright.
The program is open from 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily.It has tutors, a high school equivalency program and courses in typing, ceramics, sewing, drivers' education and cooking.
Recreational facilities include an amphitheater that is used for school and community cultural events. An indoor Olympic-size swimming pool is open to the public from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays. There is also an outdoor pool.
Most recently, residents have begun to use the school's outdoor tennis, handball, basketball and volleyball courts, said Wright. And outdoor to play area an a recreation level especially equipped for senior citizens is also being used. A baseball diamond is under construction. These and other recreation services will be managed by the city's Department of Parks and Recreation.
Reed's history is a saga of how a community worked together for more than a decade to realize a dream.
In 1966, through establishment of a local school board, residents won community control of Morgan School with approval from the D.C. Board of Education, said Anthony. He said residents felt they needed their own school board to adequately present their views about the kind of school and curriculum they needed. Bishop Marie H. Reed of the Sacred Heart Spiritual Church became the first chairman of the local school board.
Bishop Reed was known for her attempts to bring urban and personal renewal to Adams Morgan residents. She held demonstration at City Hall to bring the area's housing, education, and health problems to the attention of city government. She helped sponsor programs in such areas as rodent control, home repair, home economics, personal hygiene and speech, among others.
She cooked for a community children's breakfast program and planted flowers in a neighborhood beautification drive. Until her death in 1969, Bishop Reed, whose church was at 1732 Seaton PI., NW, was a dominant civic force in Adams Morgan.
Then, as now, Adams Morgan was a predominantly black neighborhood with an a mixture of Hispanic, African and Caribbean people, said Anthony. Most residents were in the lower-income bracket.
Over the years, the Morgan School became more and more overcrowded. In addition, few social and recreational services were available to the area's residents. Inspired by Bishop Reed and others, residents bagan to ask the city for a new educational facility that would be more than just a school. They met in groups, known as "charrettes" to plan what they wanted in the center. Thus the dream was born.
In 1972 ground was broken for the center and in 1977 Adams Morgan students moved into the new school. The Morgan School, previously on the Reed Center site, was torn down that summer.
Today real estate speculation has driven away many of the poor residents who fought for Reed, said Anthony. "I'm pretty sure the shool itself was a selling point for realtors," he said. Other advocates of the school, such as Bishop Reed, have died, he said. But the center continues to serve a large part of the Adams Morgan community.
Wright said many of the teachers and students at the school come from Morgan School and one school in the area that has closed. There are 694 students, including 67 Spanish, Caribbean, African, Asian, and white children. Anthony said they are learning, along with their teachers, to adapt to open-space classrooms.
The school has three learning centers: an early childhood center for 180 students in pre-kindergarten and first grade; Learning Center One for 240 students in grades two through four, and Learning Center Two for 274 students in grades five through seven. Next year the school will have an eighth grade, said Wright.
In addition to liberal arts and vocational programs, the school offers a continuing education program to follow the progress of former Headstart students through the third grade. A special education program is offered for students who need special help in basic academic skills. Both of these programs are sponsored with federal funds, said Anthony.
A third program, Alpha II Inc., is an academic tutorial program administered by a private firm.