The Wash
The historic Stevens Elementary sits off the corner of 21st and L streets in West End. Before closing in 2008, it long served as oldest surviving public school in D.C. (Molly Feser / The Wash)

Historic West End school will reopen for the 20-21 school year

After being closed for 10 years, Thaddeus Stevens Elementary is returning to the District’s public school system.

After sitting vacant for nearly 10 years, a historic West End school is under construction and will reopen as a citywide infant and toddler development center.

In December, Thaddeus Stevens Elementary will be added to the My School DC public school lottery in December for the 2020-21 school year.       

Stevens Elementary is the oldest surviving public school in the District. It closed after the 2007-2008 school year due to low enrollment, but will reopen by August 2020, according to a DCPS project update.

Stevens was built in 1868 and was the first public school built for black students in the District built solely from public funds. 

The school last operated as a PK4-6th grade elementary school, serving 231 students.

Tania Shand, the DCPS project manager for the Stevens modernization, said the school is a much-needed improvement for the District as the area of the city has not been meeting the high demand for early childhood education.

Shand said the school is in a central location that’s accessible to families in D.C.

Stevens will offer five general education pre-K3 and pre-K4 classrooms, three special education classrooms and four infant and toddler classrooms.

It will also serve as an additional classroom space for the nearby School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens.

Stevens still sits in its original location, deemed a historic landmark. Google Earth has not updated their map to show the renovations being made. (Molly Feser / The Wash)

Representatives from OTJ Architects presented construction documents for the ongoing project at an ANC meeting in late October. The plans feature a health suite, welcome center, library, classrooms and activity areas.

Developers broke ground last year and have since built parts of the exterior of the four-story structure. 

The plan to reopen the school was first announced by Mayor Muriel Bowser in 2017 as part of the Administration’s efforts to expand access to affordable child care. The D.C. Council first approved a plan back in 2014 to renovate the closed school and create an office building on the school’s playground.

The Ivymount School for students with disabilities was expected to move to the building once renovations were completed. However, these plans later fell through.

Now the Early Learning Center will open to applicants citywide with a goal to build a diverse school community.

The construction documents show each classroom to feature themes for the children, including jungle, ocean, sky and space. 

According to Shand, the next steps in the renovation will include painting areas around the building and installing new windows. 

Families can apply to the school on the My School DC application and see if they receive a lottery match or waitlist offer.

District resident Emily Gardner hopes her two-year-old daughter will qualify for the lottery before she starts Pre-K next year.

“I want her to go to a good school and it sounds like they’re really putting good work into it,” Gardner said.

Molly Feser

Molly Feser is a journalism graduate student at American University. Her work covers Foggy Bottom and West End.

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