Driven by demand for classroom seats from D.C. parents and a quest for ample green space for its students, the Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School is counting down the days until its move to 301 Douglas St NE in Edgewood.
“I was checking on the construction [progress] this morning,” says Deborah Williams, whose title changed from executive director to head of school effective July 1. “Our families are waiting with bated breath to hear that the work is finished.”
The task of converting the former Shaed Elementary School in Northeast to the permanent home of ITDPCS is currently scheduled to finish the day before school starts – September 2, 2014. Perkins Eastman is the architect of record, while Brailsford & Dunlavey, which also worked on the renovation of Wilson High School in Northwest, is overseeing the project.
Lee Montessori, a new charter school opening, will also temporarily lease space in Shaed, shuttered since 2011 due to low enrollment.
Charter schools in D.C. enroll about 44 percent of the city’s public-school students.
The move from ITDPCS’ first site – 1328 Florida Ave NW – was spurred by the dearth of green space there for students. The new site will offer access to a field owned by the District’s Department of Parks and Recreation as well as other play areas immediately adjacent to Shaed.
What’s more, the new site will be able to accommodate more students than the downtown location can. Williams projects that by the school year 2020-2021, the school will have enrolled about 500 students from preschool through 8th grade.
“Right now we have 268 students, from three-year-olds to 5th graders,” she says. “Next year we will add 6th grade.” The projected enrollment for the coming school year is 318 students.
ITDPCS has a lengthy wait list, and Williams says it’s due to the school’s “progressive model of urban education in a public-school setting.”
Among other things, student-led inquiry is at the heart of the classroom, as are efforts to continuously link learning back to areas of students’ interests and passions.
“Our students experience every day the sense that they are the most important people in the building,” she adds.
A partnership with the Philips Collection supports ITDPCS’ quest to tap into students’ creativity in the support of all areas of study. “Throughout the building, we display student-generated artwork,” nothing pre-printed, Williams says. “Those art pieces are often related to the writing and math and social studies happening in the classroom.”
While D.C. native Williams attended parochial schools when she was a student here, her husband is a “proud graduate of DC Public Schools.”
“Education may even come before eating and sleeping for my family,” says Williams, who has worked in the field for decades at schools ranging from UDC to Beauvoir (the elementary school at the National Cathedral) to Sidwell Friends.
ITDPCS is an outgrowth of the Center for Inspired Teaching, a D.C.-based training institute for teachers.