For over a week now, I've been trying to find out what, if anything has changed in terms of community access to the park facilities adjacent to the former K.C. Lewis school facility located at 300 Bryant St. NW. And I still don't have a solid answer. The problem, it seems, is that no one knows for sure who is responsible for locking and unlocking the park's gates.
On Saturday AM, I took my daughter and dog to the baseball field at the old elementary school on Bryant Steet NW (as I and others often do often). All the gates were locked. I spoke with a neighbor this AM who was in the field on Friday when school employees were locking the gates. He spoke to them and they said (this is paraphrased) that with the high school for at-risk youths moving in, they don`t want it to be a "hang-out" so they are locking it up. A woman who was there in the playground with her child asked if it would be reopened on weekends (or any other time) and was told no.
The context referred to here is a recent decision by D.C. Public Schools to relocate the former Youth Engagement Academy, a specialized high school with a focus on real-world career goals, to the empty Lewis school and rename it "Washington Metropolitan High School." For the last couple of weeks since the school moved in, neighbors have noticed that the gates to the adjacent field have sometimes been locked, preventing them from using it for recreation purposes.
On a couple of visits over the past week, I've found at least one gate unlocked, and a handful of residents walking their dogs on the field. But I still wanted to find out whether there was some kind of new policy being implemented, however capriciously, to prevent the surrounding neighborhood from making use of the field during non-school hours.
DCPS spokesperson Jennifer Calloway looked into the matter, and told me that the field is maintained by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, so I'd have to ask them. DPR spokesperson John Stokes then got on the case at my request, but he wasn't sure whether DPR staff or DCPS staff were the ones with the keys to the field. After several days of back and forth, all he could offer was this vague statement: "DPR will work with DCPS to ensure that the community has ample access to the park."
Have any policies changed at the Bryant Street field? Is the park being locked on a regular basis? If it is, when is that occurring, and who is responsible for making those calls? Neither DCPS nor DPR have been able to offer definitive answers to these questions.
If you encounter locked gates at the Bryant Street field, make sure to let us know. We'll continue to keep an eye on any concerns over community access to the park.