The D.C. Board of Education yesterday gave the city preliminary authority to use Bundy School as a shelter for homeless men even though school city officials say they have not received a formal request from the city for the building.
"We're not about to stand in the way of people who need to come in out of the cold," said Andrew Weeks, director of buildings and grounds for the school system. The agreement allows the city to use the now-closed elementary school as a shelter for homeless men until April 15. Weeks said that showers were installed in the school yesterday.
School officials had said previously they were waiting for an official request for the building and for estimates of heating and maintenance expenses.
But yesterday, Weeks said, Schools Super-intendent Floretta McKenzie decided to move ahead because of the need for additional shelter space, and a "use agreement" was issued to the city's property maintenance agency.
The school board called an emergency meeting of its building and grounds subcommittee for tonight to translate the Bundy school use agreement into an official lease, said Janis Cromer, director of communications for the superintendent. "We expect the board will pass it with no problem. It is because of the pressing nature of getting the shelter open. We're prepared to release the school."
The full school board is expected to approve the lease later in the evening, she said.
"The reason for the holdup is the city had never formally asked for use of the building," Cromer said.
"I was waiting for someone to initiate a request," Weeks said yesterday. "A lot of people were talking about using an empty school for a homeless shelter, but they've got to ask for it."
Last month D.C. Social Services Commissioner Audrey Rowe told the mayor's newly formed Commission on the Homeless that the city planned to open Bundy school this month as a shelter. On Monday, the city was criticized by advocates for the poor because there had been little progress on the promised shelter.
An aide to Rowe said the commissioner had taken no action on the shelter yesterday, but had been engaged in informal negotiations with the Board of Education in the past weeks.
Harold Henson, the acting director of the Department of General Services, the city agency that received the use agreement yesterday, said his department checked the heating system and completed installing three showers yesterday. "It looks pretty good. I don't see many other things to fix," he said of the school, which closed in July.
He said the opening date will depend on the Department of Human Services, which will operate the shelter. No one from that agency could estimate yesterday when the facility will open.