Langston: A failure of DC government

I’m cross posting this with DC Vacant Properties.
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There is no point to using an updated photograph of the Langston School. It was rotting away 10 years ago when the picture was taken in 2007, it is still rotting away now and the way things are going, it may be another 10 years before the city actually brings this property back to the land of the living and legit.

This property is a vacant school in the DC government inventory. It was a school from 1902 til the mid-1990s. In 1997 it was a homeless shelter. By the time I moved here in the 00s, it was a vacant husk and only a homeless shelter when the homeless and others broke in. In 2013 it got on the National Register for Historic Places, so there is that. Around 2012 Langston was offered to charters, who have 1st dibs, and nobody wanted it. No charter wants it because it is an unmaintained structure with a rotted roof that is in need of a serious rehab work. Even Mundo Verde Charter School, across the street, which took over the still functioning Cook School building and built an addition, hasn’t seriously pursued it. Langston is too far gone as a building to be of any use to a school.

Another complication is in the Slater School, another building that shares a playground with Langston. It is A.R.E. ARE is a social service organization and a daycare and it looks like they are also getting in on the Pre-K thing too. Slater is a poorly maintained building, but the tenant ARE holds on tight to its location. I strongly suspect ARE has powerful friends that are protecting ARE to the detriment of the Langston building. I suspect this because for at least a decade now, when residents bring up the nuisance property that is Langston to city councilmen or the council staff or city staff who show up to the local meetings, they seem to have no idea it exists and fail to get back to residents with a satisfactory answer.

The civic association for the area BACA, has recently formed a committee to try to figure out what could be done with Langston.

This is DC Government property. It is the Government of the District of Columbia’s responsibility. Any demolition by neglect would be purely the fault of the local government. The DC government has failed the residents of the unit blocks of P and Bates.  But then again, the DC government is a crappy property manager.

Previous blog post about Langston- http://dcvacantproperties.blogspot.com/2014/07/langston-school-vacant-forever.html

Langston School Registration form- https://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000143.pdf

Ward 5 Councilman Kenyon McDuffie- http://dccouncil.us/council/kenyan-mcduffie and http://www.kenyanmcduffie.com/

Subsidized daycare

No this this not going to turn into a mommy blog, but parenting stuff is on my mind, a lot.Eyeglass binky DC bike map

Recently my daycare had an information session and though not said directly, I’m not paying full price for my son’s daycare. The DC government is requiring that child development staff have a 2 year AA degree. I don’t know how the DC government reimburses those who have to take on that burden. What I do know is that our day care provider takes local and federal monies to operate the place. Those of us paying “full price” aren’t really covering the full price necessary to run an accredited daycare center. As one who would prefer a smaller government footprint in her life, this was a little hard to accept. But then my daycare provider had a bunch of qualities I wanted at a price that worked better for me than other places, so I accept it like the ‘terms and conditions’ thing for a program I need.

One of the things mentioned in the info session was how much money the center got per kid for a feeding program. There was a form the center bugged us about inquiring about our income that I avoided and ignored because I knew we, a dual income family, made too much to qualify for subsidized food. After a phone call asking us please, please, please fill out the form, I did. Apparently they needed everyone’s income for a government program and the center gets so much for lower income kids and so much for those who aren’t low income. The difference is big enough that it seems that it would be bad if my daycare was not economically diverse.

The Childcare voucher program

Another thing that came out of the information session was questioning if we made too much for a voucher. The voucher covers a portion (maybe all, I didn’t catch that part) of the cost that the parent pays. There are bunch of things one needs to do to maintain their voucher status, but it was touted as a very good program. An example was provided of someone making what I would consider a good salary who qualified. They were very encouraging of the voucher program. So I checked out OSSE’s site and according to a report we qualified as we needed daycare for certain things. Regarding income: 200.7

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENT:

DOES THE FAMILY’S INCOME EXCEED THE MAXIMUM INCOME THRESHOLD?

In order to be eligible for subsidized care, the child shall reside with a family whose:

(1)Annual gross family income does not exceed two hundred and fifty percent (250%) of the federal poverty guideline (FPL) or eighty five percent (85%) of the DC median income (SMI) [sic] for a family of the same size, whichever is lower, as provided in Appendix 6: Maximum Income Guidelines for Subsidized Child Care; 

and (2)Family assets do not exceed $1,000,000
Well, our family assets are less than $1 million, but we’re above 400% of the 2017 FPL for a family our size, only because both my spouse and I are working. If one of us were to quit or die, we’d totally qualify.
Hey, we now have a safety school
In efforts to support the daycare and leaving no funding rock unturned, the daycare will be expanding into the Pre-K program. They will be starting a program in 2018 where they will be part of the DC pre-K program…. that’s why they need college educated staff/teachers. There is funding, they are going after the funding, and hopefully they will get enough participants lord willing.
What does this mean for me? For the babyman (formerly known as Helpless)? It means we have a safety school when he heads for the school lottery in 2-3 years. Oh hells yes we have been thinking about schools. There are two elementary charters with pre-K programs that I am thinking about for our son. My plan B (I also have Plans C-E) was to have Center City Charter as a safety school. Just like college, you have the school(s) you really want to go to and the safety school you apply to just in case the ones you really wanted don’t pan out. Now his daycare can be a safety school if the PK3 is still around (and we’re still in DC) when he hits the eligible age.
Ours isn’t the only daycare getting into the PK3-4 system. Associates for Renewal in Education, Inc. the center taking up space in the deteriorating Slater school, next to the crumbling Langston school on the unit block of P St is one. Maybe they, like our daycare have also been able to find monies under government and other rocks in order to hang on to that space with an iron grip….. Maybe that’s what we need for the crumbly schools on P Street, a developer to partner with a child development program, to create ‘family housing’ with daycare on the bottom floor.

Looking at the neighborhood with different eyes

So at forty *mumble* years old, I’ve become a mommy through the miracle of adoption. Seven years prior I became a spouse, after living in Shaw as a single lady for about ten years*. I, and the Shaw neighborhood, have changed and with those changes I’ve experienced the neighborhood differently.

After only being a parent for a few months, my view of the neighborhood and the city I’ve lived in for over a decade has drastically changed.Eyeglass binky DC bike mapI’ve observed this in parents, typically people who moved to the neighborhood as single people or newlyweds, and in time had kids, and moved. On an intellectual level I understood the desire to protect their children from the hazards and unpleasantness of some aspects of urban life. As a member of the middle class, you know you have an out, you could, by moving to a solidly middle class neighborhood west of Rock Creek Park or out to certain suburbs or exurbs, you nor your children have to tolerate higher crime, smaller houses, chance of the draw schooling, and off street parking. Now as a mom, I have a better understanding and have the desire to protect my Helpless baby.

But no, we’re not moving anytime soon.

Not to go into my personal career goals, but there is one scenario that would send us to PG County and I’ve already mapped out where we’d relocate. I’ve also been applying to positions in DC and those have much fuzzier scenarios of possibly, probably not, moving to the H StreetCapitol HillStadium Armory area. The job search had more to do with getting married, and I’m more dedicated to a great commute than any neighborhood.

The arrival of the Helpless baby has got me thinking more about parenting things I had thoughts about, prior to his arrival, and parenting things I want to research the heck out of. I have thoughts, slightly unchanged, about schools, child care, general safety, and use of transit. I already know what charter schools we will aim for, what charter will be our safety school, and which religious schools we’ll consider if the charters don’t pan out. Recently I have been thinking about how I could replicate my aunts’ and uncles’ success of raising high earning middle class black men, and I wonder how our neighborhood might work for and against that goal. Then there is the minefield of explaining things that he will observe as we walk around. He’s still non-verbal so I have time.

As I walk around, going to and fro the metro or neighborhood businesses, I see the neighborhood differently. I pay attention to other parents or nannies as they push, carry or walk their charges. I observe their strollers, what their kids wear, and where it looks like they’re heading. I take note what places have parents with kids and how welcoming those places are so I know where we might be able to go. The parents I see going about their day help me feel good about being a parent raising my baby in my hood.

 

*If you’re counting I’ve been in Shaw for a little over 17 years.

Twenty Years of Vacancy- The Langston School

100_0402.JPGThe John Mercer Langston School at 43 P Street NW has been sitting empty and vacant since 1997*. That’s 20 years of rotting away with nothing being done to bring it back to life.

When the problem of the school was mentioned at on Bates Area Civic Association to the representative from Ward 5 Councilman Kenyon McDuffie‘s office didn’t seem to be familiar with the hulking corpse of a building and might have confused it with another building. There is so much development going on, some involving city owned land, I understand it can be confusing.

Part of the problem is whomever is the Ward Councilperson for Ward 5 is not particularly interested in being proactive regarding this property. They and or their staff seem to believe the “process” will take care of it. The process is broken.

As a school, charters have first dibs. Langston is a gut job, so no serious charter school is going through the long process getting the school to dump millions of dollars in the building’s renovation. There was a fight for the John F. Cook across the street that Mundo Verde eventually won and added to, but Cook was empty for less than 5 years and was still functional as a building.

Yes, there is an educational center next door in Slater that has always expressed interest in Langston. However the occupants of Slater are poor tenants. Poor as in too poor to do the work needed to have the Langston building gutted, brought up to code, while respecting the building’s Historic Landmark status. However, councilperson staff will almost always drag up that unrealistic possibility when asked about what’s is if anything going on with Langston. The occupants of Slater have been interested in Langston for at least 15 years. If given 15 more years they will express the same level of interest without much action to show for it.

What’s the solution? Well I have an answer no one will like and possibly won’t happen due to the shared lot with Slater, luxury condos. Turning schools into high priced condos or apartments add fuel to the fire of the gentrification unaffordable housing debate. But let me remind you of the problem… Historic Landmark; 21st century building codes; rotting corpse of a building. To work with and deal with those things require the kind of money DINK households making 100-200% of the AMI bring. This cannot be and should not be done on the cheap. And unless the city wants to throw the Slater occupants under the bus, so they can offer a well heeled charter both buildings to make it worth the while, no school with the ability to rehab both buildings (Slater is bad off too) is seriously going to touch it.

*According to the Wikipedia page about the school.