The Dukes are in Alexandria to stay Finally.
Last week, after almost two years of battling over the issue, the Alexandria School Board voted to allow construction of locker rooms at Cora Kelly Elementary School for Washington's only professional baseball team. It was the first time the school board voted to support the Dukes.
It was not, however, a peaceful conciliation.
"It is our kids, our kids who are suffering as usual," said board chairman Shirley Tyler, who joined three other board members in opposing the $50,000 locker and shower facilities construction. Total costs of construction will be paid by the city. "We are an educational institution, and we have certain obligations to meet in that regard . . . There were so many services cut in the last budget . . . and instead, we vote for baseball.
"It's a mighty expensive human cost."
Board members who supported construction, however, insisted that use of the now-vacant rooms would not impair instruction at the school, which reopened this September after being closed for four years. The team has been playing on the school field for the past two years.
"I have voted for this (the Dukes at Cora Kelly) and against it. . . . A few showers are not going to hurt anyone," said board member Lou Cook.
Cook and four other board members indicated their support was based partly on current under-utilization of the building. About 350 students are enrolled at the school, which has a capacity for 700 students.
Controversy surrounding the Dukes is not unusual. The school board and city council have fought frequently over jurisdiction of the school's playing field and facilities since the team arrived in 1978.
Most recently, the council voted to overturn a decision by the school board in June to ban the team from the playing field, basing its vote on a city ruling that the field did not belong to the city.
The board had also voted to ban the team from the building, but state regulations empowering school boards with sole authority over buildings prevented the council from overruling that decision. Last week's school board vote followed a city request to reconsider shower facilities for the team.