Thaddeus Stevens School (Courtesy photo)
Thaddeus Stevens School (Courtesy photo)

The Bowser administration announced the reopening of the historic Thaddeus Stevens School and an expansion of School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens in Northwest, part of its quest to expand child care options in the District.

Mayor Muriel Bowser, Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles and District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Antwan Wilson made the announcement Wednesday, Aug. 16 that there will be a multiagency plan to reopen Stevens as a child development center for infants and toddlers.

“We know that, starting at a very young age, every day counts when it comes to setting young people up for success,” Bowser said. “By reopening Thaddeus Stevens, we will be able to provide more child care options for D.C. families while expanding access to one of our most sought after elementary and middle schools.

“My administration is all in for kids and families, and whether they’re toddlers or teens, we want all our young people to have access to the care and educational opportunities that will help them succeed in school and in life,” she said.

Earlier this year, as part of the mayor’s commitment to increasing access to high-quality child care in the District, she announced that her administration would make space available for care providers in three government-owned buildings.

This goes along with the proposed $15.3 million in the fiscal 2018 budget for the creation of 1,300 infant and toddler seats over the next three years.

However, the D.C. Council instead allotted $11 million for nearly 1,000 seats.

“Throughout the District of Columbia, we see a growing demand not only for pre-K-12 seats, but also for infant and toddler care,” Niles said. “We know every day counts in early childhood development, so I’m thrilled we will be able to make a portion of this historic building available to provide more seats for infant and toddler care.”

The Thaddeus Stevens School, named in honor of a Pennsylvania congressman and prominent abolitionist, was built in 1868 as one of D.C.’s first publicly-funded schools for African-American children. The school closed in 2008, but community members are thrilled that it will reopen and serve a new purpose.

“Much as the original Stevens School represented a pioneering achievement for African-Americans looking to build a better life for their children, we believe that the uses outlined for the ‘new’ Stevens will make quality educational opportunities available to more students from all eight wards — including, uniquely, infants and toddlers. This reflects the best of the Stevens tradition,” said Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Patrick Kennedy (ANC 2A01).

Fellow ANC Mike Silverstein (2B06) said that his community has high hopes for School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens.

“Those hopes have been met and exceeded, with an ungraded curriculum, academic progress, an active and engaged HSA, and a huge waiting list for all eight wards,” Silverstein said. “The Francis campus is operating at full capacity, and there is a clear need for more space to accommodate more students. The Stevens campus will help fill that need.”

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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