An excited group of 5-to-10-year-olds, kindergarten-to-fifth-graders at Georgetown’s only public elementary school, Hyde-Addison, clambered onto a big yellow school bus on the corner of O and Potomac Streets Monday morning, Aug. 21, around 8 a.m. Directly across the street was their now totally fenced-off redbrick school, already a site of excavation and construction. Their parents watched carefully as bus personnel buckled the little ones into special seats. Then they all smiled and waved as the bus pulled away.
It was the first day of school for the Hyde-Addison schoolchildren and the first time ever on a school bus for most of them. They were being taken to their assigned “swing school,” Meyer Elementary School in Columbia Heights, a trip that in heavy traffic could last up to 40 minutes each way.
“My 5-year-old was really excited,” one mom who did not want to give her name exclaimed. “We attended an information meeting at the new school last week and got to look around a bit, so he knows where he is going. And he knows several of the kids on the bus, so that helped.”
“We’re not happy about the bus situation,” said two dads who also didn’t want their names to be used. “But the school seems fantastic. Lots of space, lots of light and windows, and a brand-new playground.”
Parents thought that the school would be full. “There are three full kindergartens — that’s new,” they said.
Many knew Hyde-Addison families who lived out of the attendance zone and were returning to their own neighborhood schools rather than go to what is now called Hyde-Addison Elementary School @ Meyer.
Remodeling and reconstruction of the old Hyde-Addison is expected to last two years. It became controversial last November when DC Public Schools announced that parents would have no further input regarding changes to the design or the swing school choice. Some parents urged that the project be delayed; “Give the money to another school that needs it more, we can wait,” some said. But Council member Jack Evans was adamant that the plans were fixed.
Construction at the old school began in July, as did remodeling of Meyer after Duke Ellington School of the Arts students, who had swung there for several years, moved out. On Saturday, Aug. 19, an email was supposedly sent to a list of Hyde-Addison neighbors announcing that a lane of parking on P Street would be reserved for school buses between 7 and 9 a.m. and between 3 and 4 p.m. Cars parked there would be ticketed and towed, it warned. Parking signs had been changed to reflect the limitation.
But Justin Simon, a neighbor who lives directly across the street from the old school and has parked there legally for years, didn’t know about it. He was not happy to find that his was one of three cars with a $25 ticket on the window, as Monica Dodge, public schools facilities coordinator, hurried over to explain. No doorknob notices had been left on houses in the neighborhood to tell of an immediate change, as DC Water often does.
At press time, questions from The Georgetowner about the number of students and buses that were to be used each day for transportation to the new school had not been answered. Dodge and two of her colleagues who observed the first morning of busing declined to say if things had gone smoothly, needing permission to talk to the press. “Information is on a need to know basis,” Dodge remarked.
But the kids were untouched by all these grown-up issues. Five-year-old Theodore Hughes sat in his stroller playing with a toy bus. “We’re practicing for Thursday when he takes the bus himself to Meyer,” said his mother, Paula, with a laugh.