At the first community meeting about the private school moving into the former Intelsat headquarters at 4000 Connecticut Avenue, there were bound to be questions about traffic, given that Whittle School expects to enroll as many as 2,500 students by 2025.
The April 9th meeting coordinated and moderated by ANC 3F Commissioner David Dickinson covered a lot more ground than that, though. Four representatives from Whittle School spoke of plans to be a good neighbor to the immediate Van Ness community and the city.
Before the school can open its doors to students, the 35-year-old building needs extensive modernization and refitting. The construction budget is $185 million and will support 600 full-time jobs. The work has already commenced. Most of the work is occurring on the interior of the complex.
In addition, the school committed to working with the community on modifications to and activation of the park abutting Connecticut Avenue at Tilden Street. The school’s theater and gym will be made accessible to the community. They plan to offer $15 million in a year in grants to other schools and organizations in DC. And some 300 students will receive some form of financial aid.
The four presenters, part of the leadership and education design teams, were DC Head of School Dennis Bisgaard; Andrew Meyers, the co-chair of the Design Team; Betsy Hun Schmidt, global head of Centers of Excellence; and Ron Corrado, director of Construction and Facilities.
And about traffic: Some of the 100 or so attendees did ask about that. The Whittle reps said the school is voluntarily conducting a traffic study to figure out the best way to handle drop-off and pick-up to minimize traffic impact, and the school will designate various locations for this, including the 400-space parking garage. In addition, there will be a Whittle bus to pick up students, and 400 students will live on the campus as boarders.
3F Commissioner Dickerson was pleased with the outcome of the meeting.
“The ANC is thankful to Chris Whittle and his staff for engaging with the community/neighborhood and their stated desire to continue to work with the ANC and the community during construction and after commencement of education in the Fall of 2019,” he said in an email.
Chris Whittle, the chair and CEO of Whittle School, attended the meeting and reiterated several of the main points during a phone conversation Monday. He was heartened by the community turnout and interest, saying, “We feel very welcomed by this community.”
He also told me Whittle School will open an admissions office at Mazza Gallerie for 30 staff.