Testimony of Robin-Eve Jasper
Department of Real Estate Services
Adrian M. Fenty
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair, Vincent C. Gray
Thursday, December 10, 2009
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004-3003
Good morning Chairman Gray and fellow members of the Committee of the Whole. My name is Robin-Eve Jasper, Director of the Department of Real Estate Services (“DRES”). Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on PR18-606, the “Taft School Disposition Approval Resolution of 2009.”
The Taft School building, located at 3825 18th Street, N.E. has been vacant for over a year. The proposal to long-term lease the property to the Hyde Leadership Public Charter School will save taxpayer dollars, improve a community asset, and provide valuable educational services for District residents.
Built in 1932, the Taft school building is approximately 201,144 square feet of gross building area with approximately 157,133 square feet of gross finished area. A gymnasium was added in 1948 and a north wing was added in 1970. The entire property sits on approximately 5.10 acres of land.
Returning the property to productive use as a school facility will maximize the efficient use of available square footage and reduce the amount of capital investment that is required. Retrofitting the facility for District government office use would require a larger capital investment than restoring the facility for use as a school. In addition, the Taft School is not close to a metro station and is in a low density residential neighborhood.
The Hyde Leadership Public Charter School will relieve the District of the need to renovate and maintain the Taft School. The charter school will enter into a 25-year lease with a 25 year renewal term with the District at fair-market rent – as required by the Landrieu Act. The rent was determined by an independent third-party appraisal firm. The District will also provide a rent credit up to $21 million for the actual costs of construction amortized over the lease term in exchange for completion by the tenant of critical capital improvements to the building. These improvements will modernize the facility for the charter school’s use, and will increase the value of the property for the District. The District will be relieved of all of its responsibilities for repairs and maintenance, utilities and security costs for this facility during the lease term. Just as beneficial, the District will retain ownership of the property at the end of the lease term.
The Hyde Leadership Public Charter School was selected by the District after successfully responding to a Request for Offers (“RFO”) in September, 2008. The original respondent that was selected by the District decided not to proceed with the transaction. Hyde was then selected earlier this fall as the next most qualified respondent. The RFO was a competitive process open to all public charter schools in the District of Columbia. By law, the District is required to provide charter schools a right of first offer for surplus school buildings under specific terms and conditions required by statute. The Deputy Mayor for Education and the Department of Real Estate Services reviewed each submission to evaluate:
- Educational vision;
- Project vision;
- Capability of applicant;
- Past experience with similar project;
- Financial feasibility; and
- Best interests of the District.
The Hyde Leadership Public Charter School met all of the qualifications for the RFO and demonstrated a strong track record for providing superior educational services for District residents.
The Hyde Leadership Public Charter School is a college preparatory school which currently serves 742 students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, from every ward of the District. In the 2005 through 2006 school year, Hyde’s Elementary School students scored highest in reading and math among all D.C. charter schools. In 2006, Hyde received a High Performing School Incentive Award from the Mayor of the District of Columbia for strong academic performance and a sound financial position - and was also bestowed the Recognition of Excellence in Parent Involvement Programs from the Center For Student Support Services. This recognition was for outstanding support of programs that engage parents in their children’s education. Since 2003, every student of their graduating class has gained acceptance into four year colleges and universities. Most recently, Hyde received the Program Development award from the Public Charter School Board for implementing a sound curriculum and intensively monitoring student progress and achievement.
In addition to the Hyde Leadership Public Charter School, the AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation may in the future occupy a small portion of the Taft School as a sub-tenant to provide additional pre-kindergarten education for 120 students. This arrangement would be consistent with the principle discussed during my testimony this past Tuesday concerning the ability for charter school tenants to sublet a limited portion of their building to tenants providing educational services. This is only allowed with the District’s written consent.
With a track record of educational success and a clear vision for the future, the Hyde Leadership Public Charter School will be a valued tenant in the Ward 5 community. The Taft School will be returned to productive use as it was originally intended, as a public school facility; the building will be modernized; the District will be relieved of its burden to pay thousands of dollars a year in fixed costs to maintain an empty asset; the facility will be rented at fair market value; and the District will retain the property at the end of the lease term. In the end, the community will regain a school, the school will gain needed improvements, and the District will once again benefit from partnering with the charter school community.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify. I am available to answer any questions you may have at this time.