Greater Greater Washington

Georgetown walks a mile in Kenilworth's shoes

On a pleasant, sunny Sunday afternoon, a group of Georgetown University students went for a walk. This was not simply a leisurely stroll. They were taking on the challenge of walking a mile in someone else's much-smaller shoes: those of the preschool through 5th grade students of Kenilworth Elementary School, who would make this walk daily to their new school once their school closed in June.


All photos from The Walk Video.

The group gathered to start their walk at the Kenilworth School Building. They walked through the neighborhood's public housing and across a highway...

... through a tunnel, out of the Kenilworth community, and into another neighborhood.

Once in the Deanwood neighborhood, they walked past a bus bay, across a field, pass a recreation center and middle school, all to arrive at their new school, Houston Elementary.

The distance totaled 0.8 miles, almost one-tenth the width of the District.

DC Public Schools' consolidation plan, beginning this fall, assigns students from Kenilworth Elementary to attend either Houston Elementary or Thomas Elementary. There's transportation for students traveling to Thomas School, but not for those students traveling to Houston Elementary. These students would have to take the same journey as Nasir, a 9 year old who shared his thoughts on what would be his new school.

Nasir is the star of an interview which gives his perspective on the consequences for, and causes of, his neighborhood school closing. Normally, the suggestion to walk a mile in someone else's shoes is a figurative one. Nasir and the Georgetown students afford others the opportunity to participate in the call to action with their video and the community walk.

Over the last few years, Kenilworth has partnered with Georgetown to provide tutoring for 1st through 3rd grade students reading below grade level. The program seeks to combat educational inequalities by tutoring, mentoring, and engaging students in challenging environments. In doing so, DC Reads fosters relationships among elementary youth, college students, families and community members through increasing knowledge of the larger social justice issues that surround education. As a result, these college students have become a part of the Kenilworth School community.

The walk's organizers hoped to continue the community dialogue about the future of Kenilworth School, highlight the potential consequences of the school closures, and demonstrate the challenges the students will face walking to Houston Elementary, their newly-assigned school. They consider themselves concerned community members representing an unheard perspective. This perspective comes from the students, their fellow young people and the most affected community members.

A community is not just the people who live in it. Most communities exist before any of its current residents were born and are likely to continue to exist after its residents have passed on. It is something beyond the individuals or componentsthe residents, buildings, and community members. Members can and often include individuals living elsewhere but with remaining connections. Rather than physical boundaries, the demarcation of a community is often one of a common interest.

One community member was grateful for the support of the students but disappointed at the dismal numbers of Kenilworth parents and residents who joined the walk. One of only a handful of residents in attendance, he apologized to the organizers on behalf of the community. However, it seemed unnecessary, since at that moment, all of those in attendance were the community.

Despite not being parents, everyone in the group shared a common interest with the families who send their children to Kenilworth School everyday. They care for and want the best for the children of Kenilworth, and undeterred, they planned to walk again to show their support.

Their showing of support demonstrates the promise to share in a vibrant community, not a deficit in community spirit. It means no matter how physically isolated, the Kenilworth community has a common interest worth sharing and investment. All of these persist despite currently suffering the potential loss of another institution and much needed service in a community where the school is the only remaining public investment. Still, sometimes it takes welcoming in someone who is seemingly an outsider and following their lead, allowing a change in perspective.

A community is healthy when the members show love and concern for one another. Hopefully, with the community walk, the organizers have accomplished their goal of placing their community's interest at the forefront in the conversation on school closureseducating and caring for children.

You can watch the full video below.

Eboni-Rose Thompson works as a program specialist with Save the Children, overseeing their early childhood and school age programs in the District. She serves as the Chair of the Ward 7 Education Council and is an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner. 

Comments

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What makes Deanwood Metro "historically dangerous"? Is it, for example, more dangerous (by crime stats) than Gallery Place/Chinatown?

by Matt on Mar 12, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

So the author wants DC to either 1) not consolidate schools or 2) provide bus transportation for a less-than-a-mile trip?

Honestly, this walk isn't bad. If anything, we should be glad kids are walking to school, but should work to help make DC more pedestrian friendly. In this case, though, the ped crossing is raised above 295 and is safe, so not sure what the outrage is.

by Petworthian on Mar 12, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

DCPS should note that the low attendance of Kenilworth parents may indicate that they have no intention of having their children make that walk on a daily basis. I wonder how many charters the children will pass along the way to Houston? Their seems to be a deliberate attempt by Kaya Henderson to redirect DCPS students to charters - Continuing the work that her predecessor started. Parents will then choose the closest alternative. Not necessarily the BEST alternative, but the closest for parents who have small children and are uncomfortable with the distance and the extended neighborhood that they have to cover. Then when they choose a Charter, people will (incorrectly) say "You see, people see that Charters are better".

by Lori on Mar 12, 2013 1:51 pm • linkreport

Deanwood is "historically dangerous" because there was a WMATA report within the last few years that showed it had the most crimes of any metro stations. However, the vast majority of those crimes were snatch-and-grabs (of things like iphones) and minor theft/property crime. The Deanwood neighborhood (especially that section of Deanwood north of Sherriff Rd) is really quite pleasant and relatively safe. There are metro stations/neighborhoods that are much more sketchy than Deanwood.

I don't see 0.8 miles as too long of a walk for elementary school kids. When they get older they can brag how when they were a kid, they walked 5 miles to school, uphill, both ways!

If the walk is dangerous, however, that's an issue that should be addressed. The walk is not particularly dangerous due to traffic because that part of Deanwood is has little traffic even during rush hour. The most dangerous part of the entire walk is the neighborhood they are starting in. But, that wouldn't change even if their elementary school wasn't as far away. If anything, walking to Deanwood puts them in a safer place than they would be otherwise during the school day.

by Falls Church on Mar 12, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

If the walk is dangerous, that should definitely be addressed, and not just for these kids.

As for the "One of only a handful of residents in attendance, he apologized to the organizers on behalf of the community. However, it seemed unnecessary, since at that moment, all of those in attendance were the community." Gimme a break. A bunch of G'town students are not the relevant community. If this issue is important to parents they should be there, if they can do it. The lack of parental involvement suggests that DCPS was right to close the school.

No one doubts that change can be unpleasant. Unfortunately, lack of change led to DCPS dysfunction, and its going to take time to fix it.

by SJE on Mar 12, 2013 2:05 pm • linkreport

Why not take the bus that goes from Deanwood metro station to right by the school? I wouldn't want my kid to make that walk either but it looks like a 5 minute bus ride. Looks like a monthly pass is $30 and it's good for any school related trips. Of course I also think when they close schools they need to at least dedicate some of the expected savings to pedestrian improvements in the area.

by Alan B. on Mar 12, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

...and just to the south, River Terrace Elementary was closed the year before, forcing those kids to walk a long distance across busy streets (hello, Benning Road!) to Kenilworth.

What do the kids in River Terrace have to do now? They're surely walking even farther.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Mar 12, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

"The Deanwood neighborhood (especially that section of Deanwood north of Sherriff Rd) is really quite pleasant and relatively safe. There are metro stations/neighborhoods that are much more sketchy than Deanwood."

Same thing I was going to say. I have used that metro station numerous times and always felt safe. Unknown gem of a neighborhood, also.

Cute kid. That walk is unnerving. Just more evidence of the damage of those huge freeways. I hope a solution presents itself.

by H Street LL on Mar 12, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

Does the District use police to help at the busier cross walks for school walking routes? If not, they probably should. Then, on top of that, just add a policeman at the tunnel and the bridge and maybe one other spot and safety concerns should be limited.

by jh on Mar 12, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

Lori said: "Their seems to be a deliberate attempt by Kaya Henderson to redirect DCPS students to charters - Continuing the work that her predecessor started."

This isn't quite right. Ever since charters were authorized in DC, the number of students enrolled in DCPS steadliy declined until about 2008/2009, when it stabilized. Here's a link to a chart that shows this trend:

http://gfbrandenburg.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/total-audited-dcps-enrollment-1990-2012.png

Regarding this story: while nearby neighborhood schools are great, if there aren't enough DCPS students in a neighborhood to support a fully-staffed school, I think longer walks and school closures are inevitable. It doesn't seem realistic to plop elementary schools in half-mile increments unless there are enough students choosing to attend DCPS to support that density of DCPS schools.

by Austin on Mar 12, 2013 2:38 pm • linkreport

DC has some of the highest facilities costs of any school district in the country; consolidation is the only way to resolve that. I do think any of:
a) a shuttle bus between the old school site and the new school, at least for a few years, running every 10 minutes during school opening/closing periods,
b) crossing guards at those various intersections—the way they have for kids headed to Oyster Adams on Columbia Road, along 19th, etc.,
c) adult-led "caravans" where a crossing guard walks with the kids, a new "caravan" leaving every 5 minutes or so,
…would be appropriate and relatively cost-efficient ways to temporarily buffer the impact of school closures while the community and the streetscape adapt to the new reality of fewer, larger schools.

by Rahul Mereand-Sinha on Mar 12, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

@jh

There are no truly busy crosswalks on the route described. The busiest would be crossing Minnesota Ave but even during rush hour, you only see a handful of vehicles every minute. It's actually eery how little vehicular traffic exists in that part of Deanwood. Capitol Hill, which is supposed to be super kid friendly, has far more problems with rush hour traffic making walking unsafe.

Also, there is already often a a cop car or pair of cops stationed at the Deanwood station and they patrol the tunnel. Personally, I'd find walking around Columbia Heights more dangerous than Deanwood. It's just that CH has a lot more shiny things so it seems safer but it really isn't.

There are also a ton of schoolkids at tge Minn Ave station. That area is much more dangerous to walk around due to all the traffic on that section of Minn.

by Falls Church on Mar 12, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

Completely agree with the folks that say that the area around the Deanwood metro is pretty safe: I get off there a lot (I'm a dorky white guy, fwiw) and always feel pretty safe, both from criminal activity and automobile activity.

I also really like @Rahul Mereand-Sinha's suggestions - particularly the caravans. I know the National Homecomers Academy already does some safe-passage walks in the Deanwood area to get kids to school through places where they might encounter tough kids with some kind of beef. There's not enough Homecomers for every kid in the area, but those guys have a lot of credibility with the kids, and what they do is of tremendous value.

by Lucre on Mar 12, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

Nice story.

Deanwood Metro has crime stats to validate the "historic" assertion.

by John Muller on Mar 12, 2013 5:07 pm • linkreport

I actually did DC Reads at Thomas Elementary when I was an undergrad way back when. It was a very important experience.

Anyway, it seems like this post (when it is not defensively arguing for the right of Georgetown students to get involved - I understand the defensiveness, given the white/privileged stereotype of GU students, but it is distracting) hints at myriad negative consequences of closing Kenilworth, but the only one made explicit is that some students will have to walk 0.8 miles. For you Hoyas reading this, that's the distance from Village C or New South to Thirds. Not unprecedented for kids by any means. Although presumably some live on the other side of Kenilworth and so the total for them would be more than the 0.8 from Kenilworth to Houston.

Still, we do have to be cognizant of the context, so some of the suggestions Rahul listed make sense and should be investigated, as well as other ideas.

However, sentences like the one that says "the school is the only remaining public investment" make me think that there are much bigger issues at play than just a nine-year old's fear of a new routine (seriously, I don't think we want to even give the appearance of arguing for making childhood fears the basis of public policy). Is there a lack of (other) community meeting spaces? A deficit of government investment more broadly? Is this school meeting some needs in exceed of the purely educational? If so, are there other ways of meeting those needs?

by Dizzy on Mar 12, 2013 5:18 pm • linkreport

for the most part the parents or some other adult should be walking with some of these kids to school anyway

by Jerome on Mar 13, 2013 8:15 am • linkreport

You guys don't know what you are talking about. That walk takes you through MINNESOTA AVE STATION (which is pictured), that walk bridge has historically been one of the most dangerous places in the DISTRICT (as most walkbridges are in dangerous neighborhoods). I grew up in that neighborhood, and it was dangerous then, and is dangerous now.

As you know, Minnesota Ave. is a historically dangerous station. Just because the article correctly notes that the walk was from the Kenilworth to the Deanwood neighborhood, did not mean that she was referencing the Deanwood metro station. Those who were talking Deanwood jumped to an incorrect assumption. And to Falls Church, the street crossing depicted IS Minnesota Ave, so your point actually proves the same point that the author was intending to make.

by Info on Mar 13, 2013 10:34 am • linkreport

@Info

Um, actually, no... http://goo.gl/maps/Fi8WB

by CapHill on Mar 13, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

Rahul -- while I appreciate your ideas on how to buffer the transition for children moving from Kenilworth, I do take issue with your statement that: "DC has some of the highest facilities costs of any school district in the country; consolidation is the only way to resolve that."

There are several other ways in which DC can lower net costs of facilities, including:

--Renting out partial buildings to charter schools (which I believe has been done in the past, and may be in use now).
--Renting or selling currently unused buildings to charters or other organizations, as has happened in many areas and is at least under consideration with the KIPP DC proposal for the shuttered Jefferson M.S. building.
--Renting parts of the building to community-serving organizations, career and technical education centers, or other related groups, either for the full day, or when security issues exist due to building configurations, after school hours.
--Creating public/private development partnerships, such as the one that was proposed, but not ultimately completed for Janney Elementary school and Tenley library, with contracts that allow for private subsidy of building costs.

Now, it's possible that none of these solutions might work for Kenilworth E.S. in particular, but they are other generally viable alternatives to building closures, if you are looking at facilities costs.*

(I understand that there are several operating costs that are addressed through consolidation, but I'm focused on facilities here).

by Jacques on Mar 13, 2013 10:51 am • linkreport

I have no opinion on how dangerous the walk is, or what metro station it goes through. However, the simple fact is that Kenilworth had 178 kids in the 2011-2012 year. That's just not enough to keep it open, no matter how strongly Georgetown University students feel about it. Does the author advocate keeping it open? And if so, how does she justify that request?

by dcd on Mar 13, 2013 11:44 am • linkreport

@Info: . And to Falls Church, the street crossing depicted IS Minnesota Ave, so your point actually proves the same point that the author was intending to make.

There are two sections of Minn Ave which are not connected. There's the section that runs by the Minn Ave station all the way down to Anacostia. That is a busy thoroughfare with lots of traffic. Then there's a separate small section of Minn that like a small neighborhood street in front of the Deanwood metro. That's the portion of Minn that the kids need to cross to get to Houston Elem. For an intersection like that, they could have a crossing guard or junior safety patrol.

All of these persist despite currently suffering the potential loss of another institution and much needed service in a community where the school is the only remaining public investment.

Is the author familiar with the $800,000 public investment being made into Kenilworth?

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/13748/little-known-kenilworth-parkside-is-neighborhood-to-watch/

I'd also call the beautiful Kenilworth Gardens a public investment.

by Falls Church on Mar 13, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

@Jacques:
a) "Renting out partial buildings to charter schools"
DCPS does this now

b) "Renting or selling currently unused buildings to charters or other organizations, as has happened in many areas and is at least under consideration with the KIPP DC proposal for the shuttered Jefferson M.S. building."
Is this better than selling the building for the highest possible price (presumably a private sector entity) and using that money for the DCPS capital budget? In other words, is the amount of money lost by not choosing the fiscally optimal buyer always/often the appropriate subsidy to extract from DCPS and give to the charter system?

c) "Renting parts of the building to community-serving organizations, career and technical education centers, or other related groups, either for the full day, or when security issues exist due to building configurations, after school hours"
That's an interesting idea, I wonder if there will be issues of venue-renter neutrality. I'm thinking about those horrible ads that WMATA has been forced to put up on behalf of an islamophobic advocacy group.

d) "Creating public/private development partnerships, such as the one that was proposed, but not ultimately completed for Janney Elementary school and Tenley library, with contracts that allow for private subsidy of building costs"
This is the mixed use version of (b); it's a good idea, but what's the difference between doing this, and selling the building entirely and expanding an existing one, if the latter is financially optimal?

Look, there are benefits to keeping schools open, but there are net costs, even with solutions like these, and the question must always be asked:
Is keeping the school open worth the loss of those funds that would have been freed up by choosing the financially optimal choice? Money may be abstract, but is keeping the school open worth the loss of the educational resources that money could have bought?

by Rahul Mereand-Sinha on Mar 13, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

@Rahul -- the answer to your last question depends in part on how much one values neighborhood schools as a good unto themselves, and I think different people have different answers to that question.

If DC were able to have 150 schools that had 100% of their students achieve proficiency in reading and math, that would be great. But if those 150 schools were all locating along the northern edges of Rock Creek Park-- or conversely, on Poplar Point--the situation would not be optimal for students or families that are required to travel up to 8 or 9 miles to reach those schools each day. (This example is hyperbolic, of course, but if proximity counts in that example, then it should at least figure into real-world decisions).

Academic quality is important, but in many places, schools have also played a role in gathering and strengthening their surrounding communities. I don't know what the dollar value is on having quality schools available in close proximity to a student or their family, but I would suggest it is more than zero, and thus should be (and traditionally is) at least a consideration in school closure decisions.

I would also suggest that renting school buildings or properties (even using long-term leases) is in many ways a preferable option to selling them, unless the District is quite sure that the space will never be needed to host a school again. Because buying that property (or one near it) back a couple of decades from now at market rates will almost certainly be a costly purchase.

by Jacques on Mar 13, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

@Rahul - "Is this better than selling the building for the highest possible price (presumably a private sector entity) and using that money for the DCPS capital budget?"

It depends: does DCPS have the budgetary authority to use the funds from property sales (or rentals) in their capital or operating budget? Do they have freedom to decide on what it will be used? Or do the proceeds just go into DC's general fund? The answer to that question might lead to very different conclusions.

by Jacques on Mar 13, 2013 5:28 pm • linkreport

River Terrace School Closing
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGrsFjJ2s4w

by dcblogger on Mar 13, 2013 9:30 pm • linkreport

As a Deanwood resident, I found the attitude portrayed toward by neighborhood to be both inaccurate and insulting.

by Doug on Mar 16, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

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