The original plan for Murch Elementary’s modernization and addition faced a $10 million budget shortfall. Now, the shortfall has been trimmed significantly, if not entirely, and Murch’s parent leaders and administrators are now waiting to hear from District officials about whether they will proceed with the community-approved design.
When we last checked in with the project in April, Council member Mary Cheh had just organized a meeting involving the school improvement team (SIT), representatives from DGS and DCPS, as well as the architect and builder. Together, they identified areas where they could cut costs and narrow the gap.
Also, the full DC Council is to vote Tuesday, May 17th on a FY17 budget that covers half of the $10 million shortfall, again thanks to Council member Cheh’s efforts. From Cheh’s May 12th Ward 3 update:
The [Committee on Transportation and the Environment] has designated $5 million to support the swing space expenses necessary to facilitate the Murch Elementary School modernization. Murch has not been renovated since its construction in 1930. At present, the school is deteriorating, far over capacity, and not compliant with ADA regulations. This past spring, the community learned that an additional $20 million was needed to construct both the proposed design and provide swing space for students. The Mayor’s office provided $10 million and value engineering is estimated to save an additional $5 million in construction costs. Councilmember Cheh committed the remaining $5 million to cover the swing space expenses and to ensure that the school design promised to the school, the School Improvement Team (SIT), and the community will continue as planned.
The Murch community is now waiting to hear whether DCPS and DGS officials agree the project will “continue as planned.” The agencies told community members in late March that they’d need to make a decision by May 1st to keep the renovation on schedule. The deadline came and went with no word from either DGS or DCPS. They have also been silent on efforts to add more funding.
At the March 24th community meeting, they presented an alternative design they said would bring the project back under budget. It shrinks classroom space, eliminates underground parking and elevates a new gymnasium to accommodate parking underneath for 19 vehicles. They also discussed the need for more parking and expressed hopes that negotiations with DDOT would allow for street parking for faculty and staff. This, in turn, would allow a second parking lot planned for the corner of 36th and Davenport Street to be used as pre-K and Kindergarten play space.
In the meantime, teachers and staff are packing and preparing for the move to the swing space at UDC. Perhaps soon they’ll have some clarity on the design for the school they’ll be moving back into upon the project’s completion.