Week of June 25, 2001
Snapshot from the Field
Public-Private Creativity Funds New D.C. School without Tax DollarsBy JACK LYNE Site Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- -- Would it be OK if they built a brand-new four-story elementary school in your community without spending a single taxpayer dollar?
Bond Issue Will Be Repaid from
The apartment complex, owned by a joint venture between LCOR and Northwestern Mutual Life, will generate far more than enough to pay for the school. D.C. officials said that LCOR will pay $804,000 per year to the city in lieu of taxes for the next 35 years. LCOR, which has a nearby regional office in Bethesda, Md., will manage the Adams House project.
The new facility provides a structure much more in tune with Oyster Elementary's nationally recognized dual-language immersion program. The bilingual English-Spanish program has proved so popular that some parents who live outside Oyster's attendance zone camped for days this year outside the school while seeking to enroll their children.
"The old building was a barrier to providing Oyster's diverse educational experience, including the dual-language immersion program, special education, physical education, arts and other programs," said Oyster School Principal Paquita Holland, who's retiring this summer. "The new building is a dream come true for our students, our teachers and our program."
21st Century Fund Brokers DealAppropriately, the tradition-breaking deal was brokered by an untraditional player: the 21st Century School Fund (www.21csf.org), a D.C.-based nonprofit focused on improving urban public school facilities. The 21st Century Fund had its genesis in 1992, when Mary Filardo, the parent of two Oyster Elementary students, organized the Woodley Park community to oppose the school's dilapidated conditions.
By the time the 21st Century School Fund was founded in 1995, the D.C. school system had operated for more than 20 years without a long-range facilities plan. And it had also eliminated almost all funding for new construction and facility modernization.
"Beginning in 1992, this community had the vision, determination and dedication needed to make this partnership work," said Filardo, now the 21st Century Fund's executive director. "We developed a solution that fit the unique needs and maximized the available assets of the Oyster community, resulting in a partnership where everyone benefits."
D.C. System Plans Nine New SchoolsThe 21st Century School Fund has been so successful, in fact, that it now works with urban schools nationwide.
Oyster Elementary is the first facility to open in the DCPS's announced campaign to build and open nine city schools by 2004. But construction is under way at only three other district schools. Filardo, however, remained hopeful.
"While public/private development partnerships are not a cure-all for the lack of public school construction funds, they will continue to be an important mechanism for generating revenue and contributing to economic growth," she said. "They're also helpful in building momentum towards more sustainable, comprehensive capital improvement programs."
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