Anyone who has taken a stroll or a drive down 5th Street lately will notice the buzz of activity around Coolidge High School. Construction fencing surrounds the massive building and trucks are busy unloading dozens of Transportable Classroom Units. Many neighbors have asked what is going on.
After many years of patient waiting, Coolidge is finally going to receive a full modernization. This will be the first major renovation of the facility since its construction in the 1930s. Coolidge will also be the last the city’s comprehensive high schools to receive a full modernization. If you’ve been inside this building within the last ten or twenty years, you’d know that this action is long overdue.
During the city’s current campaign of school modernizations, students are often assigned to alternate, temporary facilities while their schools are undergoing construction. Because there really isn’t any suitable empty facility anywhere in the area, DCPS is constructing temporary classroom space on the Coolidge campus. The Transportable Classroom Units are being clustered in a triangle surrounding the Frank R. Williams Activity Center Gymnasium. The classrooms are 800 square feet on the inside. This student classroom space will be used for two academic years while the school undergoes modernization. All current academic offerings will be provided in the temporary classrooms.
The $158 million funding for this project was inserted into city’s capital budget by Mayor Bowser and Councilmember Brandon Todd. The budget was approved by the DC Council. It is expected to be completed for the 2019-2020 academic year.
The Middle School Problem
The modernized high school will be designed for 670 high school students and include a partition that will allow 550 middle school students to be hosted on the site. This duel facility will solve the “middle school problem” for the northern Ward 4 community. For years, Ward 4 had no middle schools, only K-8 “Education Campuses”. This configuration led to dwindling enrollments at the community’s comprehensive high schools.
After the Coolidge modernization is complete, Ward 4 will have two fully functional middle and high schools. Roosevelt High School just completed its first year in its gorgeous new facility on 13th Street NW and it shares a campus with MacFarland Middle School, which is currently under renovation as well and will be completed next year.
DC Public School administrators and planners hope that the new facilities and the traditional format will give parents the predictability and confidence they need to invest in the local community schools. Currently, most Ward 4 middle and high school-aged students attend schools outside of the Ward. The new format will provide more comprehensive offerings at the middle school level – sports, advanced course offerings, world languages, electives, extracurricular activities, etc. In turn, this should increase community cohesiveness and enhance the pipeline of students that continue to upper grades. The current feeder schools for this new pyramid are Brightwood, LaSalle-Backus, Whittier, and Takoma.
If you have additional questions, you can email Helen Tzow, Strategic School Planning Specialist for DC Public Schools, at firstname.lastname@example.org.