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Charter School Finds Temporary Home

After a year-long search, the new Two Rivers Public Charter School, slated to open its doors for the first time this fall, finally has a home, albeit a temporary one.

The school, to be located in the Van Ness Elementary School building (1150 5th St. SE) just blocks from the Navy Yard Metro station, will offer instruction for pre-school through third grade, with plans to increase grade offerings each year until it includes the eighth grade.

School officials expect to enroll roughly 200 students its first year, with a maximum of nearly 500 by 2009.

Ultimately, the Two Rivers board hopes to find a permanent location for the school on Capitol Hill, said board President Becky Skinner, adding that it is actively looking for such a site. Under the agreement with D.C. Public Schools, Two Rivers can use the facilities for only one year, she said.

A decision on the future of the Van Ness school, which has suffered from declining enrollment, is expected at a May 19 meeting of the D.C. Board of Education, though it is not considered likely to remain open.

Two Rivers’ teaching style will follow the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound model, which stresses hands-on activities, projects and “‘real-world’ expeditions,” according to a news release. But the school will also offer resources for special education students. Emphasis will be placed on Spanish language instruction, reading and the arts.

The idea for the school grew out of discussions among some members of Moms on the Hill over the lack of slots at much sought-after Capitol Hill Cluster School campuses such as Peabody and Watkins. Last spring, a separate nonprofit entity, Two Rivers Public Charter School Inc., was formed to run the school, which has no relationship to MOTH, though several members of its board are also part of the Hill parenting group.

“We feel there has been a baby boom on the Hill,” Skinner explained.

For some Hill parents such as Mia Pham, the school’s upcoming opening is a godsend.

“Heading into the elementary school level we didn’t see on the Hill the combination of what we wanted,” said Pham, whose 4-year-old son, Benjamin, will attend the school’s kindergarten class next year. “A free alternative in the neighborhood with a philosophy that matches ours, it’s very hard to ask for more than that.”

Already Two Rivers has a waiting list for its pre-school and pre-kindergarten classes, with just 44 slots left for kindergarten through third grades, which will be filled on a first come, first served basis.

The school’s charter application was formally approved by the D.C. Public Charter School Board in November 2003.

While Two Rivers is primarily publicly funded through the uniform per-pupil student formula, it has also received several grants and donations, including two totaling $3,000 from the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, as well as a federal public charter school grant for $110,000, Skinner said.

For more information about the school, go to, www.tworiverspcs.org or contact Principal Jessica Wodatch at (202) 546-4477.

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