Southeast DC residents upset with construction of new charter school

- Residents in a Southeast D.C. community are upset over new school construction being done nearby their homes.

A charter school is being built here off of Alabama Avenue on property that backs up to several homes. More than a dozen homes are dealing with the construction zone that comes right up to their backyard fences. Some said the construction is even encroaching on their private property.

Construction on D.C.’s second Rocketship Rise Academy began last summer on a lot where there used to be apartments and woods. But some neighbors told FOX 5 they were never notified the school was being built here until ground was broken and they said mostly everyone in both Fort Dupont and Fort Davis neighborhoods are adamantly against it.

They claim construction has stirred up insects and rodents, which are bringing them into these nearby homes. One homeowner who has lived in this area for more than 40 years said workers recently came and cut down trees along her easement on her property. The residents also said the construction has disrupted their usually quiet neighborhood where mostly seniors live.

“This is a senior community,” said Johnnie Scott Rice. “I have been here 42 years. There is not one child that lives in Fort Dupont or Fort Davis that will be attending this school because there are none. We are all original owners on my side and we had our houses built. We bought the easement, we kept the trees because we liked our trees. We had a beautiful treescape, but that's all gone now."

“It’s very close to homes, very close to a water tower,” said Adrianne Doyle. “There is construction, there is noise. They are working on Saturdays. They got dirt piled up close to the back of my home. The trailer backs up to my home and when we come out the driveway, we cannot see. It’s just a mess.”

FOX 5 spoke to Jacque Patterson, regional director of Rocketship Education, who said these schools transforms communities. The first Rocketship charter school was built in Ward 8 in a crime-ridden neighborhood, but has done extremely well, soaring to a Tier 1 school in just its first year.

Patterson said he understands the neighbors’ frustrations, but he claimed there are many more people who would like to see a school built here. He said their building is compliant with D.C. zoning laws.

“It’s technically zoned residential, but within that residential zoning, schools and churches have a matter of right to build,” he said. “We see that a lot of percentages of the families who live in Ward 7, about 33 percent, are leaving the ward every single day and going west of the Anacostia River and going to schools over there because they are looking for quality schools. They are not receiving that here so we decided to put a school in this community.”

Meanwhile, upset residents here said they will continue to try and fight the building of this school. It is slated to open in January.

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