About the Site
- Old Hardy is a two-story school building built 1933.
- The building is situated on a 1.1 acre site controlled by DCPS and is contiguous to a 4.8 acre site controlled by the Department of Public Recreation (Hardy Recreation Center)
- The combined 5.9 acre site is entirely owned by the city and without any National Park Service claims.
- The site is located along major transportation arteries with frontage on Foxhall Road and Q Street NW and adjacent to MacArthur Blvd NW.
- Old Hardy School is located within a neighborhood that is increasingly dense with families not served today by an elementary school in walking distance.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF OLD HARDY SCHOOL
1933: Works Progress Administration builds Hardy, Key, Stoddert and Mann Elementary Schools
1972: The Hardy building is converted to a middle school
1996: The Hardy Middle School moves to its current location on Wisconsin Avenue
1998: Rock Creek International School (RCIS) begins leasing the old Hardy School building with a ten-year initial lease term and the option of three five-year lease extensions
2008: RCIS declares bankruptcy, Lab School of Washington buys out their lease
2017: The Palisades Citizens’ Association and Key Elementary Parent Teacher Organization pass unanimous resolutions in support of returning the old Hardy School to DCPS service; Mayor Bowser pledges public hearings if a long term lease extension is reconsidered.
2019: The Glover Park Citizens' Association passes a resolution supporting the return of the Hardy building to public school use.
2023: The final five-year lease extension option expires
Key Elementary has grown from approximately 170 students at the time of its renovation in 2003 to 430 today – the current building (not including trailers) was built to accommodate only 300 students. But the problem is not limited to Key Elementary. From school year 2007-08 to school year 2017-18 the Wilson feeder pyramid grew by 43% – or 2,919 students.
In November 2018 the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) released a Master Facilities Plan with enrollment projections for every DCPS school over the next ten years. Every DCPS elementary and middle school in Ward 3 is projected to grow 25%+ within 10 years. Enrollment projections for schools in the vicinity of the old Hardy building are as follows:
|10-Year Enrollment Projection||10-Year Growth Projection|
|Key Elementary School||417||527||26%|
|Stoddert Elementary School||438||554||26%|
|Mann Elementary School||400||501||25%|
|Hardy Middle School||392||501||28%|
|Deal Middle School||1,475||1,931||28%|
|Total Wilson feeder pyramid||10,246||12,833||
The DME Master Facilities plan concludes:
- “Wards 2 and 3 will experience a greater deficit of space in five and ten years than they already experience.”
- “At the ward level, DCPS schools in Wards 2 and 3 are overcrowded now and continue to be in five and ten years.”
THE FUTURE OF FILLMORE ARTS CENTER
Stoddert and Key Elementary Schools depend on Fillmore Arts Center for arts education space – which does not exist at either school site today. Fillmore is threatened with closure due to growing overcrowding at Hardy Middle School. If and when that happens, the overcrowding dynamics at these schools would increase further.
LOSS OF DIVERSITY
In addition to the educational and physical constraints caused by overcrowding, new out-of-boundary placements in have virtually stopped at Key, Stoddert and Mann leading to decreased diversity – thereby changing the character of these schools.
The Wilson Feeder Pattern Crowding Working Group
The Wilson Feeder Pattern Crowding Working Group was created to engage on the issues and potential solutions for overcapacity within the Wilson High School feeder pattern. DCPS convened a group of stakeholders representing the Wilson High School feeder pattern community, including:
- One parent and one school leader (or staff) representative from each school within the feeder pattern;
- One representative from the Ward 3/Wilson High School Feeder Pattern Education Network;
- One representative from the office of Ward 3 Councilmember Cheh; and
- Ward 3 State Board of Education Representative.
The Working Group began meeting in May 2017 with a draft report issued in December 2018. Key points included:
- No feasible solutions for adding capacity other than return old Hardy School building to public service
- “The hope is that this report will help inform future school planning efforts, including the Master Facilities Plan, the Capital Budget, and Comprehensive Student Assignment and School Boundary Review processes.”
- Recommended DCPS explore ways of “adding capacity and square footage to the Wilson feeder pattern.”
Notably, the Working Group was mandated by DCPS not to consider the old Hardy School building as a possible solution to current and projected overcrowding. No explanation was provided for this stipulation.
Are There Other Solutions?
EXPANDING KEY AND STODDERT
Both Key and Stoddert Elementary currently use trailers to accommodate crowding; Mann Elementary completed an expansion in 2016 and is already at capacity. The 2018 DC budget included allocations of $25 million dollars for renovations to Key (2020-22) and Stoddert (2023-24) elementary schools respectively. The funding was not tied to any specific renovations or purpose.
Both Key and Stoddert Elementary are situated within dense residential neighborhoods and suffer from access and parking constraints. Key Elementary is additionally disadvantaged by limited grounds. It is expected that the renovation funds earmarked in 2018 will be used to accommodate the current student population as well as add space needed for arts and other enrichment learning if and when Filmore Arts Center is no longer available.
Use of the school renovation funds to expand student enrollment beyond the current population would likely be met with significant neighborhood opposition.
REDRAWING SCHOOL BOUNDARIES
Without additional capacity necessary to meet current and projected enrollment, the only other solution available to policy-makers is to redraw the school boundaries. Practically speaking, this means forcing families to send their children to schools further eastwards within the city where more capacity still exists. This means families will be driving their children further from home to school and losing the intangible benefits of a local public education. School boundary changes can also have an impact on property values.
Understandably, the DCPS's last attempt at redistricting in 2014 resulted in significant citizen pushback and ended in failure. Given the growth in enrollment since 2014, the boundary changes needed today would be even more dramatic and would be expected to elicit even stronger opposition. Ironically, the area that may face the most extreme boundary changes in this scenario is the neighborhood in and around the old Hardy School building.
BUILDING A NEW PUBLIC SCHOOL ELSEWHERE
No suitable city-owned property in Ward 3 is available for a new public school apart from the old Hardy School building. The city could theoretically buy private property at market rates for a new public school facility. However, the notion of paying a premium for private property to build a new school while leasing out the old Hardy School at below market rates – a building that was purpose-built for a school – would be fiscally irresponsible to say the least.
Current Status of the Site
Lab School of Washington (LSW) is the current tenant at the old Hardy School site.
- Our understanding is that at least two-thirds of LSW students arrive to the District from Maryland and Virginia each morning.
- Our understanding is that ~65 LSW students are housed on the old Hardy School site in grades 1-4 today. The building was designed to hold many more students.
- According to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education's 2017-18 enrollment audit, 9% of LSW students are public school placements (33 total)
The current old Hardy School building lease expires on December 31, 2023. A lease extension of up to 50 years has been requested in the past and is likely to be the request again in the very near future. If this request is treated with normal order by the Mayor and City Council, the lease extension application would require the old Hardy School building be declared surplus through the city’s dispossession process and full hearings would follow.
How Could it be Used in the Future?
The goal of this grassroots initiative is not to make recommendations or speculate about the future public school usage of the old Hardy School building. However, there are many possible scenarios for its usage that would have an immediate impact on crowding with minimal renovations needed. No expansion of the current building may be needed in certain usage scenarios. To date, this is a discussion that DCPS and our elected leaders have not entertained.
Overcrowding in the public schools is a current problem and a looming crisis for our communities. The old Hardy School building is the only unutilized DCPS-owned building in the boundaries of the Wilson High School Feeder Pattern that could be reopened and modernized.
Foreclosing on public use of this property for up to 50 years without thorough consideration of its public use would be fiscally and educationally irresponsible.