Private Schools Should Not Have Exclusive Rights to Public Fields: #MakeJelleffPublic

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Mayor Bowser - Private Schools Should Not Have Exclusive Rights to Public Fields:  Please Make Jelleff Public

  1. In the middle of August, while many families were on vacation, the District of Columbia’s Director of Parks and Recreation (DPR) made a harmful, irresponsible deal behind closed doors to give - for the next decade - all the after-school hours at a public playing field to just one private school although several public schools nearby lack adequate field space.
  2. Since 2010, via a similar backroom deal, Maret School has held the exclusive rights to use Jelleff Field in Ward 2 during all the prime afterschool hours (the most in-demand times for children and families). In exchange, Maret renovated the field instead of DC government.
  3. Each year, the number of students attending public schools in the area has dramatically increased and the communities surrounding Jelleff have asked DPR for more fairness in sharing access, but have been largely denied. Many of these schools have little or no athletic field space. These communities have been anticipating the end of Maret’s contract at Jelleff so that a more equitable and fair allocation of this field could be made going forward. 
  4. In May, at a packed community meeting, dozens of public school parents and students stood up and said that they walk by Jelleff field afterschool, but have to travel almost an hour to play “home games.” They said that they get so excited when Maret calls and “allows” them to have what they excitedly call “a Jelleff Day” on the nice field nearby, instead of the less nice fields far away.
  5. Maret’s contract for the exclusive rights to Jelleff Field is expiring next year, and, despite significant opposition expressed by the community, the Department of Parks and Recreation has signed yet another backroom deal giving Maret all the afterschool hours for another decade! All requests from neighboring DCPS schools, as well as from the Jelleff Boys and Girls Club, were ignored. DPR sold another decade of exclusivity to Maret – for a new turf, new fence, and $250,000 more.
  6. This is an extension of the current unfair allocation - until 2029 - meaning barely any current school children in our community will ever be able to go afterschool to their taxpayer funded local community playing field.
  7. When asked about the criteria for this decision and why this deal wasn’t made transparently and openly as demanded by the community and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, DPR Director Delano Hunter and his chief of staff Ely Ross have responded “the decision was in the best interest of the residents of the District of Columbia” Note: Over one-third of Maret students are non-DC residents. 
  8. The public schools have always been willing to share with Maret and others. But nearby public schools, as well as the Jelleff Boys and Girls Club, should have the priority - even according to DPR’s own regulations. Public-Private Partnerships have their place, but DPR should always ensure that private interests do not outweigh the public good.
  9. We teach our children to share community resources. DPR is not only depriving our community’s children, they are teaching them the worst lesson: that some children are more deserving of public resources - because their schools have more money and influence and can buy access.  This is quite literally “pay-to-play” and we have had enough.
  10. We beseech DPR and Mayor Bowser to reverse this backroom deal, and to share the prime hours more equitably with the many public school students desperate to find a place to play too.

-Elizabeth Miller, ANC 2E07 - Represents Jelleff Recreation Center

-Kishan Putta, ANC 2E01 - Represents Hardy Middle School

-Abigail Paulsen, Steven Brown, Co-Presidents, Martin Welles, VP, Hardy Middle School Parent Teacher Organization

-Nicole Jackson, School Without Walls, Wilson High School Parent, Former Hardy Parent

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