Watkins Elementary School (Photo via Facebook/Watkins Elementary School) A Hill East recreation center and pool are expected to close next week due to school construction and modernization projects, according to a D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation news release.

Work on the Watkins Recreation Center and Children’s Pool (420 12th St. SE) is expected to begin on Thursday, June 16, and continue through August 2017.

Watkins Recreation Center, which shares space with Watkins Elementary School, offers a variety of outdoor activities for children. The center has a kids’ pool, turf field, skate rink, playground and basketball courts.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the recreation center and pool will reopen.

Photo via Facebook/Watkins Elementary School


Watkins Farmers Market (Photo via New Morning Farm) (Updated at 4:55 p.m.) Locals in search of organic, healthy food will once again have the chance to buy freshly grown produce in Hill East.

The Watkins Farmers Market is set to return for its fourth season tomorrow at 13 and E streets SE. The market is scheduled to run from 4 to 7:30 p.m., according to the website for New Morning Farm, which organizes it.

New Morning Farm works with 40 other farms in the south-central Pennsylvania area to put the market together. The farms are slated to bring eggs and a variety of fresh early summer fruits, vegetables and herbs, including tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, strawberries and kale, New Morning Farm owner Jim Crawford said.

“The market is meant to teach the kids,” Crawford said. “They already have a great gardening program at [Watkins Elementary] school, so this is meant to show them what it’s like to be a farmer and what food grown on a farm tastes like.”

The market is scheduled to operate every Wednesday until October. But once school is in session, the market is slated to operate from 3:30 to 7 p.m.

Photo via New Morning Farm


Watkins Elementary SchoolHill East residents looking to add more space for athletic activities in their neighborhood are calling on District officials to build a full-size gym in an area recreation center.

Parent representatives of the Watkins School Improvement Team have launched an petition that urges Mayor Muriel Bowser and other D.C. leaders to make a new gym part of the District’s modernization plans for Watkins Elementary School and Recreation Center at 420 12th St. SE.

The facility is scheduled to close for renovations in June. The building is expected to reopen next year.

“Building a full-size gym at Watkins Recreation Center is consistent with the recently published [Department of Parks and Recreation] Master Plan,” the petition says. “In fact, the plan identifies this Hill East neighborhood as an area that has a need for additional recreation center space and identifies the Watkins Rec Center itself as insufficiently sized.”

Locals have until Monday to sign the petition, which has drawn hundreds of supporters so far, according to Watkins School Improvement Team member Kevin White.


First Lady Michelle Obama surprised some Capitol Hill students with a visit to their school last week.

Obama met with fifth grade students at Watkins Elementary School (420 12th St. SE) to talk about gardening and healthy eating as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity.

“We snuck a whole team in here. No one knows we’re supposed to be here,” Obama said in a video released today. “We’re going to go up and check in on a fifth grade class. They’re doing a little cooking, and I’m going to surprise them.”

She then entered a classroom, drawing gasps and applause from the children inside.

After greeting the students, the first lady got to work making tortillas and mixing a salad with the kids.

“You guys have this amazing garden, and I’m so proud of you,” Obama said. “And I want the world to see all the great things you’re doing and how you’re learning so much about good eating from your garden and your school.”

Video via YouTube/Let’s Move

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Watkins Elementary School

Students at 10 Capitol Hill-area Elementary and Middle schools scored above the District average in math and English according to test results from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers released today.

Students across the District took the PARCC tests to determine how well schools are preparing students for college and careers. Earlier today, Mayor Muriel Bowser released the results of test scores for grades 3-8. On average, 25 percent of students between grades 3 and 8 scored at “On track for college and career readiness” in math and 24 percent were on track in English.

However, multiple elementary and middle schools in the Capitol Hill area scored above the District average. Brent Elementary led area schools in both math and English, with 57 percent of students considered on track in math and 68 percent in English.

The other local schools that exceeded the District average in both math and English are:

  • School Within School
  • Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School
  • Maury Elementary School
  • Watkins Elementary School
  • Two Rivers Public Charter School

The following schools scored above average in math only:

  • Tyler Elementary School
  • J.O. Wilson Elementary School
  • Chamberlain Middle School (Friendship PCS)

Capitol Hill Montessori School at Logan scored above average in English but not math.

Catharine Bellinger, the Director of the D.C. chapter of Democrats for Education Reform touted Ludlow-Taylor and Tyler elementary schools as schools that performed well despite having a high number of economically disadvantaged students in a statement about the scores.

Bellinger said that students at these schools are “beating the odds” and said DFER “commend the teachers and leaders working every day in these schools to prepare their students to succeed, not just on tests, but as life-long learners and critical thinkers.”


Jefferson Academy Middle SchoolStarting at a new school can be hard for kids and parents. As parents start gearing up for school enrollment season in the Spring, several Capitol Hill area schools are holding open houses. These open houses will give parents a chance to check out their kids’ prospective new schools and meet some of the teachers and other parents.

Here is a rundown of all the school open houses happening later this week and in the next couple months:

Watkins Elementary School
420 12th St. SE
Open: Nov. 18, 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Stuart-Hobson Middle School
410 E St. NE
Open: Nov. 19, 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Van Ness Elementary School
1150 5th St. SE
Open: Nov. 19, 9-10 a.m.

Miner Elementary School
601 15th St. NE
Open: Nov. 19, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Dec. 8, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Jan. 14, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Feb. 18, 9:30-10:30 a.m.

Jefferson Academy Middle School
801 7th  St. SW
Open: Nov. 20, 9:30-11 a.m.

Brent Elementary School
301 North Carolina Ave. SE
Open: Nov. 23, 9-10:30 a.m.

Maury Elementary School
1250 Constitution Ave. NE
Open: Nov. 30, 9-10:30 a.m.

Capitol Hill Day School (PreK-8th grade)
210 South Carolina Ave. SE
Open: Dec. 8, 9-11 a.m.
Tours also available on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Schedule a morning tour by emailing [email protected]

Ludlow Taylor Elementary School
659 G St. NE
Open: Dec. 10, 9:30 a.m.
Jan. 14, 9:30 a.m.
Feb 11, 9:30 a.m.

School Within School
920 F St. NE
Open: Jan. 14, 6-7:30 p.m.
Feb. 20, 9-10:30 a.m.

Eastern High School
1700 East Capitol St. NE
There are currently no open houses scheduled, but families can make appointments to tour the school at [email protected]



Candles (Photo via Flickr/curiouskiwi)The community at the Capitol Hill Cluster School is coming together to help a staffer  whose teenage son has died.

An online donation page has been established to assist the family of Watkins Elementary School academic officer Olutayo Ayodeji with funeral costs for his son. The Capitol Hill Cluster School includes Stuart-Hobson Middle School and Peabody Elementary School, in addition to Watkins.

Oludumare “Sule” Ayodeji, 16, was reported missing on July 1 and was found dead in a river in D.C., NBC Washington reported. He was identified Monday.

Authorities have yet to release the cause of his death.

Dawn Clemens, principal of Stuart-Hobson, wrote in a letter to Capitol Hill Cluster School parents and staff that Olutayo Ayodeji has worked with the Cluster for the past eight years.

“We are a Cluster family and Mr. Ayodeji and his family could now use our assistance,” Clemens wrote. “Anything you could do to help would be appreciated.”

So far, more than $5,950 has been donated to assist with the family’s funeral expenses.

Olutayo Ayodeji didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Photo via Flickr/curiouskiwi

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Elena Bell (Photo via John H. Vanderpoel Elementary School)(Updated at 8:35 a.m. Friday) Peabody and Watkins elementary schools on Capitol Hill will have a new principal for the 2015-2016 school year.

Elena Bell, the principal of a Chicago elementary school, will take the helm of Peabody and Watkins of the Capitol Hill Cluster School June 29, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced yesterday. The Capitol Hill Cluster School includes the two elementary schools and Stuart-Hobson Middle School.

She will succeed Dawn Clemens, who became principal of all three schools in 2011. Clemens will continue to serve as principal of the middle school.

“Ms. Bell is excited to meet all of you, and I hope you will give her your warm welcome and support as she leads your children toward success,” Henderson wrote in a letter to parents.

Bell has led John H. Vanderpoel Elementary School in Chicago since 2012. She also served as the resident principal of E. Dunne Technology Academy in Chicago and the Edward Devotion School in Brookline, Mass. She began her career in education as a second grade teacher in Atlanta.

Photo via John H. Vanderpoel Elementary School


Watkins Farmers Market (Photo via New Morning Farm)Capitol Hill residents soon can buy strawberries, lettuce and other produce from Mid-Atlantic farmers near Watkins Elementary School.

The Watkins Farmers Market is slated to return for its fourth year June 3, a week from today. The market will be open from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 13th and E streets SE.

New Morning Farm and the Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative in Pennsylvania will have more than a dozen fruits, vegetables and herbs for sale, said Emily Best, a New Morning Farm representative. The food includes kale, beets and cilantro, in addition to strawberries and lettuce.

The market is scheduled to continue its operations every Wednesday until the end of September. But it may still sell food later in the fall, as it has done in the past, Best said.

On school days, the market will run from 3:30 to about 7:30 p.m. When school is out, the market will open a half-hour later at 4 p.m.

Photo via New Morning Farm


Eliot-Hine Middle School (Photo via Google Maps)Eliot-Hine Middle School could receive more money per student than any other D.C. public school in the coming year, an analysis released this week shows.

The Capitol Hill-area school would get $16,467 for each of its students under the fiscal 2016 budget proposal released earlier this month by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, according to a study from public school advocates the Coalition for DC Public Schools & Communities and Code for DC. The sum is a 9.3 percent increase from this year.

The school at 1830 Constitution Ave. NE is expected to have 239 students in 2016.

Locals have lamented that the mayor hasn’t supported funding for major renovations at the school.

Eliot-Hine students and their parents yesterday called on the D.C. Council to fund significant upgrades to the school in fiscal 2016, instead of fiscal 2019, as Bowser has proposed. The school has dated facilities and an outdated HVAC system that often leaves students boiling or freezing, locals have said.

In addition to Eliot-Hine, two other Ward 6 schools would be among the top 10 schools citywide for per student funding.

Van Ness Elementary School, which reopens this fall in Navy Yard, would receive $16,356 for each student. Jefferson Academy Middle School in Southwest would get $15,543 per student.

Not every Capitol Hill-area school would receive five-figure per-student funding, however.

Maury Elementary School, near Lincoln Park, would end up with $9,611 for each student. Watkins Elementary School in Hill East would get $9,562 per student.

Out of all the D.C. public schools, Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest would have the lowest per-student funding, at $8,312 each.

Photo via Google Maps


New Ward 6 school budget proposals have brought cheers and jeers as locals push for school renovations.

A plan to start upgrading Hill East’s Watkins Elementary School in the coming year drew praise from some locals. But some parents are concerned after Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget released yesterday looked to fiscal 2019 to begin repairs at Eliot-Hine Middle School in Kingman Park and Jefferson Academy Middle School in Southwest.

Joe Weedon, Ward 6’s representative to the D.C. State Board of Education, said the District must start renovations at Eliot-Hine and Jefferson in the coming year. The schools need functioning heating and cooling systems, repaired bathrooms and classrooms with better lighting and ventilation, he said.

“The facilities at Eliot-Hine MS and Jefferson Academy MS are far below standard and fail to meet the basic needs of students,” Weedon said on his website.

Bowser proposed a total of $24 million to modernize Jefferson in fiscal years 2019 and 2020. The school at 801 7th St. SW had almost 300 students in the 2013-2014 school year.

Eliot-Hine would receive $34.1 million for renovations in fiscal 2019 and 2020 under the mayor’s plan. Nearly 300 students attended the school at 1830 Constitution Ave. NE in the 2013-2014 school year.

“Both Eliot-Hine MS and Jefferson Academy MS are positioned to become thriving school communities that can serve students from Ward 6 and across the city,” Weedon said. “However, they will fail to achieve their promise without needed capital investments.”

As for Watkins, Bowser requested a total of $30.9 million to renovate the school and its recreation center in fiscal 2016 and 2017. The school at 420 12th St. SE had 545 students in the 2013-2014 school year.

The District plans to make repairs to the school’s heating system and windows this year and begin renovations in 2016.

Last month, Watkins parents called on Bowser to provide more than $27 million for upgrades. Last night, D.C. Department of General Services representatives met with parents to discuss a new gym, window sunshades and other proposed changes to the school.

The mayor’s budget plan for Watkins is a “huge step in the right direction,” said Kevin White, a parent member of the Watkins Modernization School Improvement Team.

“We are happy,” he said.

Jefferson and Eliot-Hine building photos via Google Maps. Eliot-Hine bathroom photo via Twitter/Heather Schoell


Watkins Elementary School (Photo via Facebook/Watkins Elementary School)Watkins Elementary School parents are fighting for funds to modernize the Hill East building, after Mayor Muriel Bowser moved to axe nearly $7.3 million from its 2015 budget earlier this year.

The 420 12th St. SE school and recreation center needs more than $27 million for long-delayed upgrades, the parents wrote in a letter to Bowser and other D.C. officials. Parent representatives of the Watkins School Improvement Team are encouraging supporters to sign the letter by Saturday.

Funding of $12.8 million in fiscal 2016 and $15.5 million in fiscal 2017 is “absolutely critical” for Watkins, which was built in 1963, the letter says. Out of the school’s 10 major building systems, eight are “poor” or “unsatisfactory,” according to a 2008 D.C. Public Schools master facilities plan. The recreation center is “aged” and hasn’t received “any substantial improvements,” the letter adds.

“While we heard significant support from several members of the Council during recent agency oversight hearings, we want the mayor to hear from us directly,” the parent representatives of the Watkins School Improvement Team wrote in a post to their website. “We believe this letter is the most efficient way to provide a focused message while demonstrating the broad support that Watkins has across our community and neighborhood.”

Plans for Watkins could include an “open and inviting welcome center,” a greenhouse and a fitness room, according to a slideshow from architecture firm Perkins Eastman.

In fiscal 2015, the city plans to make repairs to the school’s heating system and windows, but will postpone any construction, with planning and design completed this year.

“This approach will allow sufficient time to respond to and design for all stakeholders, while also allowing for much needed repairs such as window replacement,” the parents’ letter says. “While we view this approach favorably, we are aware of the risks associated with deferring funding for future years, which would further delay critical improvements to education spaces.”

Watkins had 545 students from across the District in the 2013-2014 school year, according to DCPS. The school also hosts the Watkins Hornets football teem, after-school programming and free summer meals for children.

Parents didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry.

Photo via Facebook/Watkins Elementary School


Stuart-Hobson Middle School (Photo via DCPS)One Capitol Hill school is set to have more than $7 million cut from its budget, while two others will get financial boosts.

Mayor Muriel Bowser seeks to reallocate nearly $49.5 million in 2015 capital funds for D.C. Public Schools, documents published by The Washington Post show.

The budget changes will help the school system meet its overall goals, Bowser said in a letter to D.C. Council.

“The reprogramming of [the] capital funds budget is to support the cost of school modernizations, phased modernizations and small capital projects,” Bowser said.

A cut of $7,275,800 is planned for Watkins Elementary School (420 12th St. SE), the documents show. Repairs will be made to the school’s heating system in financial year 2015, but construction will be postponed, with planning and design completed this year. Funds for construction will be requested for FY 2016-2021, according to the documents.

Stuart-Hobson Middle School (410 E. St. NE) is slated to get an additional $4,775,000. The boost is needed because of “cost escalation, informed market conditions, unforeseen conditions and scope of work alignment,” the documents say. The work will be done in FY 2015 and 2016.

And Payne Elementary School (1445 C St. SE) is set to see a boost of $9 million. The funds will go toward classrooms, an elevator, a playground and a connector that will bridge two wings of the building, the documents say.

D.C. Council has until early next month to review the plan. Meetings on the Watkins renovation will be held tonight (Monday) and Jan. 29.

Photo via DCPS


(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) After practicing for months, Capitol Hill students will honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tomorrow afternoon.

Fifth graders at Watkins Elementary School will recite the entire “I Have a Dream” speech at 1 p.m. Friday, standing where King delivered the speech in 1963.

Nearly 100 students have been practicing their lines in the Watkins cafeteria for the past two months, taking the last 15 minutes of every school day to rehearse, assistant principal Anthony Lawson said. They first got their lines before Thanksgiving.

“The kids are as passionate about it as the teachers are,” he said. “They knew as fourth graders that they would be doing it this year, and this is their big moment.”

Students at the 420 12th St. SE school have read the speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for at least the past seven years, Lawson said. Video from the reading last year shows smiling children taking turns at the podium and raising their arms as they shout the final words of the speech: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

“Dr. King was like a really big person in the civil rights movement, so it felt good to honor his legacy,” one girl said on camera after participating in the reading.

“I feel awesome right now, like I jumped off a plane,” another beaming student said.

Video via YouTube/Caryn Ernst


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