Dear PoP – Public Education Facilities Modernization FAIL

“Dear PoP,

Here’s something amusing. The DC Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization last week initiated a project at Bancroft Elementary, in Mount Pleasant, for expanded and improved playgrounds. There’s been some controversy about that, mainly because the neighborhood found out about this project only when the heavy equipment showed up, on August 3, and reduced the existing playground to rubble, including the gardens visited by Michelle Obama last spring, and the little-kids playground paid for and installed by the neighborhood just seven years ago. It would have been nice if the DC Government had let the neighborhood in on its plans for the neighborhood elementary school.

Um, about the sign — curious that they don’t know how to spell Councilmember Graham’s name. And the tape? That’s been put there to cover over a tart comment about the project hand-written on the sign by some disgruntled neighbor.”

56 Comment

  • I for one don’t think the city should go out of its way to solicit input from the cummunity cause then every yagoff nimby out there finds a bone to pick and gets on their soap box.

    • Why does the neighborhood need a say if you have both the mayor and the ward councilman on board?

      • That part of the ward doesn’t bring in the votes for the mayor/councilman, that’s why the city should listen to the neighbors.

        • I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. Your part of the city is disenfranchised or no one cares what people here have to say?

          Not being the marginal vote that turns an election does not qualify you as not having a voice in city government.

          It’s a representative democracy, not rule by mob.

      • as an aside, the neighborhood struck a deal with the school to pay for equipment for part of the playground and all this non-school property was bulldozed and thrown away with no one at the school remembering THEY DID NOT OWN THAT PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT.

  • Yeah, you can’t do anything in Mt Pleasant without some sort of absurd NIMBY protest.

    “Don’t renovate the library! You’re making it too big and 21st century!!!”

  • They picked the wrong neighborhood to pull a stunt like this one in!

    • What stunt? Let them finish the project without NIMBY hyper-advocates defacing city signage.

      My kid is going to go to Bancroft next year and I for one would like them to fix up the place!

      • I think you’re missing the point here, Fred. I don’t think anyone here is advocating for the upgrades not to be completed, and I think that it’s perfectly reasonable for parents and residents to have some input on the playground’s design.

        • Eh, disagree.

          Guaranteed way to drive up the cost and end up with franken-playground.

          • You put an awful lot of faith in the District to get it right.

          • I guess ‘right’ is in the eye of the beholder, but I don’t have a lot of faith in community groups to police themselves and their peculiar interests vs. the greater public good.

  • What’s the worst result here — you don’t have a walking distance playground for a couple months? And then you get a brand new playground?

    Sounds horrible.

    Would that they would spend some of this money in other neighborhoods in DC, where people accept improvements without a protest.

    • “What’s the worst result here”

      A colossal waste of money. Building things that are neither wanted nor needed.

      The result of even an iota of community input would have been the community saying “we are perfectly happy with the existing, almost-new playground, so wouldn’t it make more sense to spend the money where it’s needed?”

      • Mighty presumptious don;t you think? I’ve heard lots of Bancroft parents express strong support for the proposed renovations.

      • From what I understand the community was unaware EXCEPT for the bancroft parents and PTA which all are in full support. obviously. Its the Parents who DONT send thier kids there who want to keep access to the park and grounds open to them as well who got the shaft

        • Well, if that’s the issue, then that’s a much bigger city wide issue which I’d like to see debated at the mayoral and city council level. There is clearly no consensus between the parents of school children and the local community on access to school land during after hours.

          It’s an important debate, but it needs to be at a much higher level.

  • Here I thought that noise was coming from the orangutans down in the zoo, when it was coming from all the way across the park!

  • The way these things go is no matter how proactive the city is in meeting with residents first, people inevitably complain that they weren’t informed before construction started. I’m not saying thats the case here, but it might be.

  • I agree with other that in general, DC neighborhoods and various community groups have too much power and control over public and private development, zoning, infrastructure upgrades, etc. Every little project, renovating a library, renovating a playground, expanding a business, a restaurant adding outdoor seating, the curb in front of Giant, Klingle Road, anything in Cleveland Park or Mt. Pleasant, ad nauseum is held hostage by self-important NIMBY community groups and ANC representatives. The whole “routine ANC protest withdrawn after voluntary agreement” business is absurd. None of the projects that have been held up, scaled down, or blocked altogether have been anythng near the scale of the bad 1950s-60s urban renewal and highway building projects. Nobody is planning to build a skyscraper in Tenleytown (though that would be cool!), or a hog-rendering plant in Takoma, or a NASCAR racetrack in Mt. Pleasant, or ram a new highway through Georgetown. THOSE are the kinds that residents should get up in arms about, and expend time and energy protesting. Not every little teeny thing that goes on. Get some perspective, NIMBY people.

    OK, rant over… 😉

    • Amen…

      There are entire self obsessed Wards (“ahem…Ward 3, I am talking to you) who demand to be consulted every time DDOE plants a street tree, or the city repairs an existing sidewalk (I want brick in front of my house, not concrete waaaaaaa!), then at the same time, don’t understand why they can’t simply call up DDOT and get a speed bump on their street the next day, or why others in the area would have a problem with it.

      It is really astoundingly ridiculous.

      Soliciting the public on each and every minor item only results in it taking 3 times longer to accomplish and costing twice as much, and in the end, you’ve still upset as many as you pleased.

    • You are absolutely right, up to and including a skyscraper in Tenleytown being cool.

  • Unreal comments.

    Does anyone here actually understand the reason behind the controversy?

    The community, in conjunction with the school, organized, built and paid for a brand new playground and community garden seven years ago, because there was none at the school, and DC wasn’t doing anything about it.

    Somehow, the managed to not only get this project together with no help from DC whatsover, but they did it without fighting among themselves for years!

    Then, without so much as an announcement, the city decided to tear down a perfectly good playground and raze a garden that was enjoyed by the students as part of their educational program, to replace it with something that will, at best, be about the same, and at worst, be substantially worse than what the community and the school collectively agreed upon and built.

    Doesn’t anyone think that we should be not just wantonly tearing down things that work fine and everyone likes, and replacing them just because Fenty has decided every school needs a new playground? Whether or not it actually needs one?

    • the tott playground served its purpose in the interim. But what is being done now is a major overhaul that will make the grounds of the school spectacular. And in doing so possibly tempt some residents into sending their children to public instead of charter/ private what have you. A new soccer feild and outdoor classroom two or three new playgrounds and landscaping. The loss of one small tott playground is the price we pay. so be it.

    • Why would you assume the new playground will be worst? Looking at the plans for the new space, it looks like a vast improvement to me.

      Sounds like wounded egos more than anything else.

    • It sounds unnecessarily cynical to say that the playground would be at best the same.

      It appears they will have age-divided playgrounds, a planting area, outdoor classrooms, and a number of environmentally friendly elements that no doubt will help the District meet its strict stormwater runoff reduction requirements.

      The neighborhood may not have been notified, but it sounds like the school and the PTA were certainly on board.

      Take a deep breath and try to imagine that something might be for the better.

  • I am a current Bancroft parent and am thrilled about the new playground and addition of a soccer field. While I can appreciate the efforts of the community, there was nothing fabulous about the old playground – think expensive cracking asphalt, strange 10 ft tall concrete ramp, parking lot and dumpsters in the middle of the play area and some decent playground equipment. I’m sad that the small gardent had to go, but that’s not the only garden at Bancroft. There are two on 18th Street and one large one on 17th Street. The folks in Mt Pleasant were ticked because they weren’t informed in advance, but there was a PTA meeting in May/June that reviewed all the plans. The complainers didn’t know about the PTA meeting because none of them have kids at Bancroft and therefore shouldn’t have a say in Bancroft’s playground!

    • I have to disagree with your last statement here, but this is where the debate should start: “does the community have the right to use school property after hours or not”. If they have the right to use it, they should have at least been informed. It’s clear that most parents disagree and would like to have taxpayers subsidize the recreation fields for their children with no general right access to it.

      T. Wells has already come out against community right to use school property after hours on one occasion so it’s not an isolated incident.

      As to this specific incident, I think that the community doesn’t have the right to slow or block a plan, only to be invited to the discussion.

      • You’re both right to an extent, except community groups yell a lot louder than kids, and I’d be more willing to give kids that actually have to go to school there, and the parents that send them, way more weight than the community that just “gets” to use the grounds after hours.

        The debate about using school grounds after hours is an important on to have, though, as the whole policy seems to be piecemeal at best. Not to mention the odd and inconvenient times that tracks and fields around the city are open to the public (despite being publicly funded).

      • Oh, and “invited to the discussion” in this city so often means “veto power.”

        • Agreed, and that’s not my intent. Jim Graham is a good example of a politician who will absolutely cave if you scream loud enough regardless of how silly the idea is. It’s empowerment of stupidity that creates this kind of mess.

  • My son goes to Bancroft, this is his fifth year there. The play areas that existed at the school were in very bad need of rehabilitation and upgrading. The older age playground was in terrible shape – play surface was tearing up, the climbing frames were rusty and just generally in bad shape. the younger children playground, the one the Mt. P. residents helped fund was in generally good shape, but cramped and in need of some fixing up. The “garden” that Michelle Obama visited was approx. 10 wooden beds. She visited one day and that was it. Because of the cramped conditions in the play areas this garden was frequently trampled and in need of weeding, etc. It was nice, my son appreciated it, but it was not a showplace or that large. The rest of the areas was concrete and broken basketball goals. The new plans are really very nice – a new play area on the upper story, a U8 size soccer pitch, a half court basketball area, new and larger play grounds with better surfaces and a much larger garden area – all of these are a part of the new design…and my son can’t wait to use them. Sure, DCPS could have done a better job letting the locals know about the plans but if their kids went to Bancroft they would have known about them, we received notices about the upcoming plans and suggestions (within reason) were taken. And although these Mt. P folks may have fund raised the money for the previous small playground, the playground is on DCPS property and frankly, that is all the justification needed for Bancroft to go ahead with their plans. If DCPS had gone to the community for input this whole thing would have gotten caught up in the soap opera that is Mt. Pleasant NIMBY/new vs. old residents crap that is so rife in that neighborhood and therefore it would have floundered and nothing would have come from it. As someone that supports the changes in the DCPS, one, by paying taxes and two, by sending my child to a public school, I am all for these changes. Lots of the children that go to Bancroft live in the neighborhood, in apartments and small houses with no play space – this is a much needed upgrade for them. I wonder how many of these local community folks send their kids to Bancroft…or even to a DCPS school? And anyway, how in the world can giving kids a new playground be a bad thing – only the folks in Mt. P. could twist that around.

    • The redone school playground looks amazing. +1 on parents having the main input. It’s a shame this neighborhood has such a rep that working to avoid their input seems necessary.

    • DCPS property is DC taxpayer property. DCPS is not some private subsidiary owned by parents.

      • May God have mercy on your soul, for you know not what you say.

      • no, it’s not, but it’s clearly the parents who have the biggest stake in how the school grounds are redone. please note the difference between “main” and “exclusive.”

        to your point above, the general public should be able to use the school grounds when not in use by the school or another group with official permitting (rec. league basketball, boy scouts, whatever). use could be restricted should it prove that the facilities are deteriorating due to excessive or destructive community use(the grass gets worn down, vandalism is occurring, etc.). how that is determined/mediated, i don’t know.

        on the whole, the community should be brought into the loop on these school facility decisions. i just think it’s sad that mt. p has such a bad rep that the DC gov’t and parents at the school view their input as a threat to getting anything done.

        • meant to be in reply to ragged dog.

        • I wholeheartedly agree with you. I think that EVERY non DCPS activity should be paying a scaled rate (scaled based on kid/adult) rate to use facilities. The rate should be based on what it costs to maintain TOP NOTCH facilities. I see no reason why adult kickball shouldn’t be funding the entire DCPS turf budget alone.

          However, the rules need to be applied uniformly. We can’t have pop warner football tearing up the fields and DCPS paying for the field maintenance without some other adult leagues paying.

          There’s a win-win in there somewhere.

  • I love people’s attitude that “we did it once 7 years ago! the playground’s fine!”
    Do you folks know that sometimes things need to be upgraded and fixed after years of outdoor wear and tear?

  • I disagree about access to school grounds when school is out of session. The equipment on the playground is for use when school is in session or during school related events. It is property of the school, just like the books in the library, or the desks, tables, cafeteria trays, etc. Would you suggest that the school should be open to use to anyone as long as it is not in session? And although it is a nice idea that people should be allowed on school grounds unsupervised…it is, in reality, a recipe for vandalism and other illegal activity. We have had at Bancroft problems with drug sells on the playground, even while the kids are out there playing. And the previous playground equipment had been vandalized and abused by non-age appropriate use. A dose of real world behavior is important here.

    • Yes, the schools should be open when school isn’t in session. The gyms should be open for paying adults (and kids). The alternative is kids with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

      There’s no reason why the funding can’t pay to subsidize the DCPS budget and pay for security.

      One thing you learn quickly is adult use of facilities chases off the drug sellers pretty quickly. You can’t effectively keep the drug dealers off the school grounds without adult presence. The cops, at best, temporarily move people around.

      • And by schools open, I mean the gyms. Besides most of the schools I’ve been by are wide open after hours. There’s not a ton of security anyway.

    • “Would you suggest that the school should be open to use to anyone as long as it is not in session?”

      your question misses the mark and makes an extreme out of what i think was a pretty reasonable statement made in my previous comment. no one is saying that school grounds should be open to any kind of activity at any time when class is not in session. i’m saying that:

      1) school facilities are community property. their primary purpose is to serve the needs of their students. when not imposing on or otherwise negatively effecting the education of students, school facilities are also made available for a variety of non-DCPS uses. schools are voting places and community meeting places, they host youth sports leagues and adult education classes. this is a formalized and accepted process.

      2) outdoor facilities should be open for community use when appropriate (above i wrote “use could be restricted should it prove that the facilities are deteriorating due to excessive or destructive community use [the grass gets worn down, vandalism is occurring, etc.].” it’s entirely reasonable that school playgrounds be open to the public so long as it meets the conditions above. if access needs to be restricted, it’s a special case coming out of special circumstances, not the default policy.

      3) it’s a shame that mt. p has such a bad rep that their input is avoided like the plague.

  • Nobody’s claiming that the old playground was “good enough”. But surely those of us who helped raise $70,000 to build a better tot-lot for Bancroft could have been told of the plans for a new playground. The message from Bancroft to the neighborhood is clear: the school doesn’t care about its neighbors, and doesn’t consider itself part of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, that contributes to the longstanding divide between the school and the neighborhood, something I’ve been working to overcome for years.

    Had the neighbors been included in the playground discussions, I’m sure they would have been enthusiastic about the plans. What they didn’t like was finding out about the project when the bulldozers showed up and went to work.

    Bancroft ought to be a place where neighborhood kids, and Bancroft kids, come and play together. That’s my goal.

    • It’s hard to sympathize with the Mt P residents who find fault in every blessing. For those of us living in less blessed neighborhoods, it’s especially hard.

      Just a different perspective from outside the confines of Mt P.

    • It reads like sour grapes…not a desire to make a better solution.

    • How many neighbors have to be consulted before it counts?

      Some Mt Pleasant residents who have children at Bancroft were involved in the planning as were some teachers & neighborhood parents who used the playground (ref message from Bancroft principal, PTA president & others posted on the Mt P forum: )

      If everyone has to be consulted about everything, nothing would get done.

  • “The message from Bancroft to the neighborhood is clear: the school doesn’t care about its neighbors, and doesn’t consider itself part of the neighborhood.”

    –I am sorry but this doesn’t make a lot of sense. If anything Bancroft School reflects the neighborhood perfectly, though it may not be what some members of the neighborhood want reflected. The children and parents I see in the school look very much like Mt. Pleasant – though, and frankly this has to be said, not the affluent Mt. Pleasant that tends to send their kids to other schools. If, and no matter how you parse it but this seems to me to be the bottom line here, parents in the neighborhood had their children enrolled in Bancroft last year, they would have known about the plans for the new playground and they could have commented then. Now it is wonderful that you contributed to the previous play area, thanks, but things change, the playground was used, your money was wisely spent and it provided enjoyment for kids…isn’t that what this is all about? Isn’t this about good facilities for children to play on and not about a legacy of some sort?

    • ha!

      The majority of Bancroft students come from out of boundary. you are just wrong. Look at the statistics, most of Bancroft students live east of 16th St in Columbia Heights.

      DCPS destroyed private property and you are rationalizing it.

  • I live in Mt Pleasant and support the city’s action here. The playground and garden are public property owned by the city. The city should be able to renovate its property without interference from the neighborhood unless the renovation is going to have a substantial impact on the neighborhood. Here neighbors lost use of the garden and the playground. But they never had a right to that use. The use of the land for the garden was an easement without legal title. The neighborhood gathered round and made many of those improvements itself and it will have the opportunity to do that again once the improvements have been made to the playground. Honestly, our children deserve better than to be subjugated to petty political battles like this.

    • You are completely missing the point and no nothing about the situation here.

      The neighborhood raised money to build a mini-playground for neighborhood kids on the grounds of the school including a wall of bricks named for major donors. The principal allowed the bulldozers to destroy all that private property without once contacting the rightful owners of that property. THAT is the issue, NOT the design of the playground.

      Although there’s also a tree issue. The main deal is the destruction of the playground equipment not owned by DCPS.

  • If you donate something to an organization, be it a school or a church or another entity, it’s not yours any longer.

    The playground equipment was purchased with money donated by the community. The community was generous, and lots of kids made good use of the playground over the last seven years. But the equipment wasn’t private property and didn’t belong to the people who donated money. It belonged to the school.

    And by the way, if you’re talking about the Playstart equipment it wasn’t destroyed.

  • Neener – While a lot of kids do come from out of boundary to attend Bancroft, they can only get a place in the school if there is space available…and there tends to be space available because many people in Mt. P choose not to send their kids to Bancroft. So, OK, let’s say that Bancroft does not reflect the “real” Mount Pleasant (whatever that might be) but it does reflect the population that can only afford to send or chooses to send their children to a Public school. My main point is that it is silly to suggest that a needy and struggling public school in Mount Pleasant, that has been there for generations, does not want to have anything to do with the community, like they are some exclusive private school only in that location because the rent is cheap?!
    And like Annie points out, once you donate to an organization, you no longer own what you donated, be it money, clothes, books, bricks or playground equipment. And as far as the “tree” issue, that lovely old Elm there near the playground is old, damaged and diseased – the urban tree-scape has to be maintained and cultivated, trees can not be allowed to fall and decay like a forest. Imagine if a large branch fell on a child. I can not help but feel that for whatever reason all this complaining is because the donors to the previous playground what some sort of legacy or martyrdom for their previous “gift” to Bancroft and the community. A gift is not for the giver but for the receiver. It was appreciated but it is time to move on.

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