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Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012 10:56 a.m.

With developers picked, plans for local elementary school roll forward

 

The historic Stevens Elementary School, abandoned in 2008, will be restored into a school for children with autism with a 10-story retail and office complex located next door. Hatchet File Photo

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Frankie Kane.

The city announced a developer and a special education group Aug. 30 to restore the historic Stevens Elementary School, which closed its doors in 2008.

A nonprofit school and outreach center called Ivymount School and Programs will lead classes for 50 autistic children when the school – located at 21st and K streets – reopens in the coming years.

Replacing the school’s playground next door, two District-based real estate companies – Akridge and Argos Group – will build a 10-story retail and office complex beside the school, according to a press release from Mayor Vincent Gray’s office.

The teams will share the costs of rehabilitating the school.

“Ivymount Schools and Programs will be an incredible asset to the D.C. community and help us to meet the demand for high-quality educational services for our children and youth with autism,” De’Shawn Wright, deputy mayor for education, said in the release. The special education group already works in public schools across the District.

Six development teams, including the firm renovating Gelman library, Donohue Construction, and six educational groups initially expressed interest in the project in March. Finalists made pitches to the Foggy Bottom and West End ANC, a group that pulls in community feedback about construction and development, in July.

The school, which was named a National Historical Site by the National Park Service, has been out of use and under much scrutiny as the city tried to restore the area. It was closed in 2008 as part of the reform efforts by former Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Former Mayor Adrian Fenty tried to sell the location to Equity Residential in 2008 to create an apartment complex to replace the abandoned school, but the plan was scrapped after immense kickback from the neighborhood.

At an ANC meeting held in August specifically to discuss the Stevens School, the group voted unanimously to support the developer and education group.

Chairwoman Florence Harmon said the community feels that they were “definitely included this time” in the decision process for the school’s future – a stark contrast from 2009.

Members of an ANC committee devoted to the school called for GW’s graduate education school to collaborate with the Stevens School, such as adding a tutoring program.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said the University had not been involved in recent talks to work with the school. She said GW “would be happy to discuss a possible collaboration, however any such discussion would have to be initiated by the District or the winning party.”

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