December 22, 2011

One Year Following Devastating Fire, Takoma Education Campus Re-opens to Students 

Several new upgrades and features are unveiled

Contact: Melissa Salmanowitz | (202) 535-1096

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Mayor Vincent C. Gray, DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson, City Administrator Allen Lew, members of the DC City Council and members of the Takoma Education Campus community visited and celebrated the reconstructed and modernized Takoma Education Campus one year to the day following a devastating fire that destroyed the building and forced the school to move to a temporary site.

“One year ago today, a tragedy both tested our resolve as a city government and proved our dedication to the children of DC – illustrating in one event the incredible things we can do as One City,” said Mayor Vincent C. Gray. “From preparing the Meyer School for students and staff in the days following the fire to transforming the Takoma Education Campus into a world-class Catalyst Arts Integration school – this effort required all hands on deck and everyone stepped up. The response was amazing and so are the results.”  

Over the past year, the Department of General Services (DGS) has been reconstructing the Takoma Education Campus and the results are impressive. In addition to several upgrades, the building includes new and enhanced features such as a science lab; art room; two computer labs; a new library; two new performance areas; gym bathrooms with showers; a parents center; autism breakout center; dance studio; new nurse's suite; and a greenhouse.

“With the winter holidays approaching, I can’t think of a better present to give the Takoma community than this fabulous, newly reconstructed building,” Chancellor Henderson said. “This city and our school communities are at their best when everyone pulls together for the good of our students. Last year, we took a tragedy and turned it into one of the school system’s greatest success stories as hundreds enlisted to help this school rise from the ashes.”

The fire at Takoma Education Campus struck at the beginning of winter break 2010 and posed one of the greatest operational challenges of Chancellor Henderson’s tenure. With only two weeks before students and staff returned for school on Jan. 3, 2011, DCPS faced the daunting challenge of finding, equipping and preparing a suitable temporary school site. The task required a massive mobilization of people and resources to meet the tight two-week deadline. 

The 50-year-old Meyer building, a former elementary school on 11th Street NW, met the requirements for a swing space, but there was no heat, no running water, no kitchen equipment and no telephones. Classrooms lacked desks, whiteboards, textbooks and supplies. The office needed copiers and other essential materials. And the entire school, closed in 2008 for under-enrollment, needed a floor-to-ceiling cleaning, landscaping and the simple decorative touches that make a school feel like a school.   

To meet the challenge, DCPS and the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization (now part of the Department of General Services), worked around the clock with contractors to ensure that Meyer had all the necessary services and supports for teachers to teach and students to learn. And a small army of parents, Takoma school staff, community members, educators from other DC public schools and DCPS employees, joined the effort to clean lockers and desks, arrange classrooms, and assemble furniture.

As a result of these efforts, the school opened on time Jan. 3 and not one minute of instructional time was lost. With little time for celebration, DCPS and DGS immediately began to plan for the reconstruction of Takoma Education Campus.

Takoma Education Campus Principal Rikki Taylor said the renovation exceeded her expectations. What she once considered to be “a dark, gloomy” building with an open space concept and few windows, is now “bright and sunny with fabulous colors throughout the spaces.”

These aesthetic upgrades, along with gallery and performance spaces, are essential to the atmosphere and operation of Takoma Education Campus, a Catalyst Arts Integration School that weaves the arts – movement, dance, visual arts, and other forms – into the classroom curriculum and methods of learning.

“It has unique features like galleries and music libraries, and it even has open performance areas similar to Eastern (High School).  I haven’t seen a modernized elementary school that is more unique,” Principal Taylor said. “The kids definitely deserve their new school, and I am so proud of DCPS for making this happen in one year.”

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