Principal Calvin Hooks smiled broadly late Friday afternoon, Aug. 9, as some 40 parents and children ooh-ed and aah–ed and commented: “Amazing!” Hooks was showing them around Georgetown’s about-to-be-reopened, totally transformed Hyde-Addison School.
Georgetown’s only public elementary school stretches from O Street to P Street in the first block west of Wisconsin Avenue. Comprising pre-K 3, pre-K 4 and kindergarten through fifth grade, the school is student-ready, opening for classes on Thursday, Aug. 29. Mayor Muriel Bowser will officially cut the ribbon on Wednesday, Aug. 21.
As recently as June, Rick Murphy, chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E, remarked that it would be a miracle if the renovation and expansion project was finished in time for the 2019-20 school year. That miracle appears to have happened. “This is our chance now to really shine,” said Hooks.
The massive project, which added 30,000 square feet of new space to the 40,000 square feet of existing buildings, well over a century old, began in the summer of 2017. It was budgeted at $50 million (originally $42.1 million), with scheduled completion in the summer of 2019. The architect is Shinberg Levinas and the contractor is MCN Build, LLC. Though final data is not in, the project obviously has been finished on time and appears to have been on budget.
At first sight, the new school is a bit of a shock. The entrance playground looks almost surreal with its space-age playground equipment, soft-surface soccer playing field and long curving bench in front of the entrance. The exterior of the new building — which serves as the main entrance and connects the two historic buildings into a now-coherent campus — is surfaced with a terra-cotta rainscreen and baguette sunscreen system, applied vertically instead of horizontally, in front of one-way glass.
Inside, walls of windows fill the media room and the library (on the west end of the building) and the entrance hall with natural light, allowing expansive views of the playground and trees in front of the school. The grand staircase in the center of the new entrance building is flooded with natural light from a full-ceiling skylight.
The staircase leads up to a second story with high-tech classrooms, a dedicated art center (with its own pottery kiln, to be used by all grades) and a new bridge connection with the 1907 Hyde building, housing the preschool and lower grades. Descending two flights leads to a multipurpose gymnasium with a basketball court, a large fold-up stage and fold-up stadium seats, a music room, a health suite, the cafeteria, the library, four classrooms and space for administrative support. Most of the white, high-ceilinged gym lies underneath the entrance playground, receiving natural light from skylights embedded in the playground landscaping above.
Behind the grand staircase, all the classrooms and the former cafeteria of the Addison building have been completely refurbished. Offices for school administrators and staff, educational coaches and special education experts are located on the east side of the new entrance building.
A Changing School Population and a Mission of Diversity
The return of Hyde-Addison into its thoroughly up-to-date new digs comes just as the population of families in Georgetown and the District is growing. A February 2019 report from DC Public Schools’ Office of Planning estimated a 25-percent growth in the next 10 years.
Hyde-Addison is expecting 371 students to enroll this fall, according to Kalyn Blueitt, manager of strategy and logistics. That’s up from 320 two years ago. This school year, a new second grade was added, making 15 regular classes: three kindergartens, three first and second grades and two third, fourth and fifth grades. One pre-K 3 class and two pre-K 4 classes complete the schedule.
Besides the full–time teachers for each class, the staff includes class aides; coaches; reading, math and special education experts; teachers of music, art, Spanish and English Language Learners; librarians; and administrative and maintenance personnel, as well as the popular “Mr. C.” (Curtis Alexander), sports and games coordinator for the After Care Program.
Hyde–Addison is one of the most diverse schools in D.C., according to Hooks. “Over 50 languages are spoken by students, parents and staff here, since many of the children’s parents work at embassies, the World Bank, IMF and at Georgetown and George Washington Universities.” For the 2017-18 academic year, Hyde-Addison’s official demographics were: 44 percent black, 27 percent white, 16 percent Hispanic, seven percent Asian and six percent of multiple races.
This multinational and ethnic diversity creates a particular mission for Hyde-Addison, Hooks told The Georgetowner. The principal, who has been with DCPS for 18 years, grew up in San Jose, California, before attending Howard University. “Our core values of curiosity, diversity, integrity, kindness and perseverance are aligned with our responsibility to embrace diversity, promote equity and educate the whole child … with the skills necessary to become global citizens,” he said.
“The curriculum will not change this year based solely on the school’s return to Georgetown,” Hooks added. “Still, all students will have various levels of age-appropriate access to all the new spaces, including the dedicated new art center, science lab, music room, and gymnasium.”
“The new multi–use gymnasium now offers space for grander productions throughout the school year, including winter and spring concerts and art showcases,” Hooks pointed out with enthusiasm. “We’ll now have the ability for additional extracurricular offerings and enrichment clubs, as well as to host home basketball games and to have an optimal practice facility.”
“Students particularly bond on the playground, which is open till 4 p.m. after school,” said Silvie, whose daughter spent eight years at Hyde–Addison and whose son is entering first grade. “It’s there that the parents and kids become friends and the school becomes family.”
A Fast 2 Years — Now, the Future
The controversies between DCPS and Hyde-Addison parents of two years ago over last-minute construction changes — especially the gym and music room in the “basement” and the need to bus young students to the swing school — have vanished. The project’s School Improvement Team work is done. Now, the big issue may turn out to be overcrowding.
Hyde–Addison’s new three-building campus is constructed for a maximum student population of 400. DCPS defines a school as “overcrowded” if its enrollment is over 95 percent of capacity and “underutilized” if it is less than 65 percent. If Blueitt’s estimate is correct, Hyde-Addison will be at almost 93 percent of capacity this year, and Hook expects the school to grow by some 20 to 25 students a year.
Any student who wants to attend Hyde-Addison — including those who live in the immediate school district, the “in-boundary” students who get first priority — must apply through the DCPS lottery. While no one officially tracks who is in-boundary, according to Hooks, the percentage at Hyde-Addison is estimated to be between 30 and 50 percent. Current “out-of-boundary” students and their siblings have priority to stay over new out-of-boundary students.
The number of in-boundary students is likely to grow as increasing numbers of millennial professional families move to Georgetown for its urban lifestyle. Since housing in Georgetown is so expensive, The Georgetowner has found that new families increasingly are choosing to have their children attend Georgetown’s free public schools. It is expected that much of the bulge now seen in the second, third and fourth grades at Hyde-Addison will proceed to Hardy Middle School in the next few years.