When it comes to providing state-of-the-art learning environments for students, officials in the District of Columbia have been on a steady roll.
Over the past few years, several of the city's 136 public schools have undergone facelifts to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. And, on Friday, Sept. 28, District officials revealed yet another plan for renovation with the unveiling of the design for the new Frank W. Ballou Senior High School in Southeast.
"From the classroom technology and state-of-the-art band room to the parent resource center, child care center and a health/dental center, the new Ballou will exemplify how a high-tech high school can provide learning and health and family services for an entire community," Mayor Vincent Gray told residents and community leaders during the unveiling ceremony. Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry, City Administrator Allen Y. Lew, Deputy Mayor for Education De'Shawn Wright, and Department of General Services [DGS] Director Brian J. Hanlon also attended the evening event.
The District-based Bowie Gridley Architects and the national firm of Perkins & Will created the design for the $120 million modernization of Ballou.
Work on the school, located in the 3400 block of Fourth Street in the Congress Heights neighborhood, begins this winter and will be completed in two phases through 2015. Opening is slated for August 2014.
Boasting 37 classrooms, the facility will enroll 1,400 day students and approximately 900 part-time evening students. Featured amenities will include a new cafeteria and athletics wing, a greenhouse and designated spaces for visual and performing arts.
Hanlon added that the new school will serve as a national model. "[It will be an example] on how to use technology to support learning in the classroom, in energy and sustainability systems, and teach the next generation how it can protect the environment now and for generations to come," he said.
While Washington Teachers' Union chief Nathan Saunders expressed excitement about the District's long overdue investment in schools east of the river, he said he was concerned about the placement of qualified faculty.
"Inasmuch as resources were dedicated early to those schools [east of the river], it's very significant that Ballou will finally get its due," said Saunders, 46. "However, the District must investment equally in the physical plant as well as in the personnel inside."
To that end, Saunders said that he'd reviewed the design for Ballou and believes its dedicated spaces will work well as long as competent teachers are involved.
"And I speak most notably about the legislation that was sponsored by [D.C. Council member] Jack Evans to put librarians, art and music teachers in every school," said Saunders. "After all, to have a modernized school with a library, but no librarian doesn't work."