MS. REBECCA SHEIR
But first, we head to D.C.'s Deanwood neighborhood to H.D. Woodson High School, the new H.D. Woodson High School, that is, the gleaming three-story building replaces what many knew as the Tower of Power, which dated back to the early 1970s. The more than $100 million project was part of a $1.8 billion overhaul of some of the city's school buildings and all sorts of city officials and community leaders showed up for this week's ribbon-cutting ceremony, like Mayor Vincent Gray who emceed the event.
MAYOR VINCENT GRAY
Won't it be great to bring all of our Woodson students back together again? The 9th graders have been at Brown and the rest of the students have been at Fletcher Johnson and starting on August 22nd, they'll all come together in this fantastic new 235,000 square-foot building.
Also up at the podium was D.C. Public Schools Chancellor, Kaya Henderson.
CHANCELLOR KAYA HENDERSON
It's one thing to have a pretty building, but it's something different to have the kind of world-class education going on inside as the building represents outside. That's what we will deliver to Ward 7. That's what we will deliver to this Woodson community.
The alumni in the Woodson Male Chorus even made an appearance with a rousing rendition of the Woodson School song.
But before the festivities got underway, I headed inside the school and up to the media center with two individuals who helped make the new Woodson a reality. Robert Hannan and Renard Alexander are program managers with the city's Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization and for those who never saw the old Woodson, Renard painted a bit of a picture.
MR. RENARD ALEXANDER
From a structural standpoint, it was almost a huge cube. They had escalators down the center section, an auditorium, gym, nowhere of the magnitude and size of this new facility. Its student count was roughly, I think, 500 or so. This is a building that will accommodate 900.
So here we are in the new media center. Students will be able to do audio production in here, video production. Since this is radio, can you describe what it is we're looking at here in the media center and what students will see when they head to classes on Monday? Robert, do you want to take this one?
MR. ROBERT HANNAN
Sure. This is an audio-visual mix-down unit here that provides a way to put all the audio and video into a package that can be broadcast throughout the school. They can customize it, however, from all the different sources that come into it, whether it be camera or audio sources. And it's very advanced. The men who installed this told me they'd never seen one in a high school before. The WNN is the Warrior News Network and will be broadcast, I'm not sure exactly how often, maybe every day in the morning for the students, be an in-house radio station, so that will be pretty neat, too.
So while we're talking about technology, this new Woodson, of course, is being described as state-of-the-art, but then again, its predecessor also was when it was built back in 1972. With the old Woodson, the school system, you could say it fell behind on maintenance, upkeep. A lot of that initial investment some people might say was lost. So are you at all worried that history might repeat itself here?
Not at all. We're more than confident the D.C. Agency Office of the Chief Technology Officer is in charge of the infrastructure for all of the schools. We've got a fiber connection here in the building that will be 100 megabit so they've got all the speed and capacity, in terms of this converged network that we have, which allows telephone, streaming data, video all through one broadband connection.
We have high-density wireless capability throughout the building so you've got the best quality. In terms of the actual wiring, it's the latest Cat. 6 which is the highest standard right now so we're more than confident with this facility. It's guaranteed fully, it's guaranteed fully.
The technology seems to be a running theme with this conversation, which brings us to STEM, Woodson's curriculum focusing on science, technology, engineering and math. What's the relationship between the redesign of this school and the ability of students to excel in those subjects, do you think?
STEM has been around for 20-plus years and the old school and a traditional high school is typically a double-loaded corridor, meaning that you have a central corridor with classrooms off of either side. This school being built around STEM, which is a collaborative learning project-based curriculum that allows for large and small groups to form and morph into larger or even smaller groups as necessary to attack and solve a project and a problem. And the space is designed to allow small groups to gather in small areas where they can have larger forums.
So in addition to the media center, are there other aspects of the school that perhaps make it one of a kind in the District?
It is absolutely a gorgeous building. It's the first ground-up building built in the District for, I don't know, what, Renard, 30 years? It is the only one -- there are some others coming on line. I think Dunbar is going to be raised and built up new like this one. It'll be the first LEED Gold high school in D.C. We have a green roof here. We have achieved LEED Gold. We have water-saving technologies here for recycling rainwater into the -- to be used as gray water in the toilets. It is so robust and so flexible and so adaptable for a long period of time that there's just nothing like it, nothing compares to this school.
And given all of this new, modern technology, earth-friendly aspects of the school, what message do you hope that this will send to students when they come back on Monday for a whole new academic year?
I would say it shows D.C. P.S. all the agencies, OPFM that support the schools, we care about you. We want you to have the best education possible. We want you to have the best facility possible, best instruction. So I think that's just reinforced by this building. It's just a Class A project and I think that when you walk in the door, you actually see that.
What I would try to impress as a takeaway, without being too blunt, would be earn it because a lot of people have sacrificed quite a bit for this to happen and produce something that is so spectacular to give to you. So we haven't just moved the ball further down the field, we've given them the ball and they need to carry it now so earn it.
That was Renard Alexander and Robert Hannan with the city's Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization. To see photos of the new Woodson High School, visit our website, metroconnection.org And we want to know -- Chancellor Kaya Henderson says what happens inside a school should be every bit as important as how that school looks from the outside. What do you think of the relationship between academic achievement and how a school looks and feels? Send us an e-mail. Our address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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