You know something is going on when you walk into a meeting hall and see people showing up early and a TV news truck outside. Right from the beginning, the activism started.
On Nov. 29, I attended the community meeting at St. John’s Church on O Street to discuss the burning controversy having to do with moving 3- and 4-year-olds to the Meyer School, while Hyde-Addison School — which is across the street from the church — undergoes reconstruction and expansion.
Parents in bright red and white T-shirts approached me at the doorway and asked if I wanted a T-shirt. The shirts were emblazoned with the rallying cry, “Don’t Wing the Swing.”
The “swing” refers to the proposed move to Meyer, at 11th and Euclid Streets NW, which was closed more than eight years ago. The school is three miles from Hyde, so the kids could no longer walk or bike to school. Three- and 4-year-olds would have to be bused to the site. Everybody in the room opposed the move except one parent. Georgetown’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2E) formally opposes this policy, as does the Georgetown Citizens Association.
Georgetown resident Peter Mirijanian was quite upset and politically candid and forthright. He said without hesitation, “The mayor has completely disregarded the opinions not only of Hyde parents but of the Georgetown community as a whole.”
Mayor Bowser herself walked in right after the meeting was called to order. Already present, sitting in the front of the room, were At-large Council member David Grasso, Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans and Deputy Mayor for Education Jenny Niles.
Everyone spoke that evening but Deputy Mayor Niles. Supposedly, the decision and policy were made by Niles. But no questions were directed at her and she amazingly did not volunteer a word. I must say — very strange and indeed insulting to those affected.
Another Georgetown resident, Marshall Schoenthal, commented from the audience that he had called Niles 15 times but never had received a call back. I went up to Niles and asked her why she had not called Schoenthal back and she responded with the all too familiar D.C. government response: “I never got the message.”
Unbelievable. Truly unbelievable.
Back to Bowser. She opened up by saying, “Always great to be in Georgetown.” This comment was met with stone dead silence. At one point, sensing the mood of the crowd, she stopped her presentation and said out loud, “Maybe I should take questions.” Then, a second later, she inquired, “Or should I finish?”
She did finish, but in no way persuaded the crowd of the administration’s policy of moving the students to Meyer during the renovation. Evans gave a little history lesson concerning public schools in the ward. He lamented the fact that, of all eight wards, Ward 2 is the only ward not to have a high school.
Grosso is chair of the Education Committee on the Council. He spoke briefly. His presentation was lame. His entire persona signaled: “Don’t blame me” or “I don’t want to be involved.”
As the evening wore on, the crowd became much more vocal. One parent yelled out with great conviction, “We are left without a public school.” Another pronounced loudly, “You need to listen to us.”
Most of those who attended seemed to want a delay in the renovations and more suitable site picked, such as Hardy Middle School on 35th Street or even the University of the District of Columbia. When I asked “What’s next?” of the mayor after the meeting, she said she would listen to Evans and then make a final decision.