Bells ringing, children chattering, and yellow school buses filling up with students haven’t been heard near J.F. Cook Elementary School since the District of Columbia closing it in 2008. Stillness and barb-wired fences now surround the school.
However, the controversy surrounding the future developments of J.F. Cook has been anything but peaceful between Ward 5 residents and two non-profits, Youth Build and the Latin American Youth Council, to whom the city turned over the school after its closing. The building is located at 30 P Street Northwest.
Youth Build reportedly has plans to use the space to create a charter school. The Latin American Youth Council plans to house an educational facility that would offer schooling, job readiness training, and housing to underprivileged young adults.
But residents in the surrounding area are not happy about the residential facilities proposed by the Latin American Youth Council.
“One specific issue that the community has raised in opposition to the proposed disposition is the high rate of truancy in Ward 5,” said Robin-Eve Jasper, the director of the Department of Real Estate Services, who testified before the D.C. Council’s Committee of the Whole and Chairman Vincent Gray in December 2010. Residents also complained that the area has many social service providers and doesn’t need another one.
On Monday January 31, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bradley Thomas of 5C01 and ANC 5C02 Commissioner Sylvia Pinkney addressed Councilmember Harry Thomas with a letter opposing the facility being renovated with residential space.
In the letter sent by the two commissioners, suggestions from the community included a “collaborative arts center” that combines “the visual and performing arts, community arts programming, studio space and design workshops.”
In response to the residents concerns, the Latin American Youth Council proposed reducing the affordable housing for the originally planned 47 young adults to 35.
Despite the efforts to compromise, the Truxton Circle civic leaders, Hanover Area Civic Association, Bates Area Civic Association and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5C came to the conclusion that they are not in favor of the Latin American Youth Council’s plans with J. F. Cook School. The letter asks Councilman Harry Thomas to stand with them in this decision.
However, they do remain in favor of allowing Youth Build to create a charter school and to be allowed more of a decision over what happens with the remainder of the space.
According to the Bates Area Civic Association blog, Commissioner Sylvia Pinkey provided an update on the city council’s decision on the developments of the J.F. Cook School.
“The City Council did not vote on the disposition of the building to Youth Build Charter School and Latin American Youth Center. Without a vote, the extension expired as did the time for the project to be approved. The developers will have to work through the Executive Office once again should they wish to reapply for this building.”
Listen to audio of the J.F. Cook story by Spencer Whitney.