Fort Lincoln Elementary School, designed a decade ago as the prototype for the schools of the 1970s, will admit students for the first time to ring in the decade of the 1980s-if all goes according to plans.
Finished in 1975, the $7 million school has been waiting for four years in magnificent isolation for its first students, a monument to the bureaucratic snarls and administrative snafus that have delayed development of the Fort Lincoln new town project since the late 1960s.
Perched atop a hill at the 360-acre Fort Lincoln site at Bladensburg Road and South Dakota Avenue NE, the school looks out through broad picture windows on a panoramic view of Washington and the Maryland suburbs.
Designed for 700 students, the award-winning Fort Lincoln School cost about 1 1/2 times as much as most 700-student capacity schools would cost. When its opens in September, it will enroll 350 pupils, according to regional school superintendent Gary Freeman.
About 200 will be special education students who will be bused to Fort Lincoln from special education programs now located around tehe city that are being closed. About 150 will be from the Fort Lincoln neighborhood, Freeman said.
It was 12 years ago that the concept of the Fort Lincoln new town was first put forth by President Lyndon B.Johnson as a visible symbol of his administration's commitment to the revitalization of the nation's urban centers.
On 360 acres of rolling hills along the boundary between Washington and Prince George's County, where a Civil War bastion once stood, would rise a racially and enonomically integrated community that would be the embodiment of Johnson's Great Society in the nation's capital.
But almost from the beginning, the project was plagued by bureaucratic disputes, financial problems and internecine warfare among citizens groups that wanted control over what was going to be built on the property.
Elaborate plans were made and dropped, developers came and went, and it was not until December 1975 that ground was broken on the housing project. By then Fort Lincoln School had already been completed. It sat on a hillside surrouned by acres of vacant property, and there were no students nearby to fill it.
Design of the school began in 1968 and construction began in 1973. Planned as an open classroom school, the building contains spacious teaching areas, a small planetarium, an Olympic-size swimming pool and a two-storey jungle gym. The building was designed in a terraced arrangement so that many of the roofs, built against a hill and railed, can be used as recreation areas. Elaborate children's climbing equipment has been installed on many of the rooftop recreational areas.
In the spring of 1977, almost two years after Fort Lincoln School was completed, the board of education attempted to open it with children from nearby Woodridge School at Carlton Street and Central Avenue NE. But the board backed off after parents objected, claiming Woodrige was more convenient, and others complained that they did'nt like the open class-room concept.
The special education students attending Fort Lincoln in September will include learning disabled chidren and visually and hearing impaired children. Freeman said that as development of Fort Lincoln proceeds, he expects the school to fill up with neighborhood children.
About 260 residential units have been completed and are occupied in Fort Lincoln. Eventually a total of 4,600 homes will be built, according to officials of the development. The completed complex will have a population of 16,000, a federal government office building, a shopping mall and two parks with tennis, handball and basketball courts, a large playing field, horsehoe pits, a jogging track, an amphitheatre and picnic areas, according to plans. Total cost is expected to exceed $200 million.
Middle-class black families now constitute the majority of the population at Fort Lincoln. Costs range from $42,500 for a one-bedroom apartment with a patio to $97,000 for a three-bedroom townhouse. CAPTION: Picture, The Fort Lincoln Elementary School will open this fall. By Craig Herndon-The Washington Post