In late November, a passionate group of GDS students and faculty attended a DC Board of Zoning Adjustment meeting to express their support for the plan to merge the two GDS campuses. The transfer of the campus to the empty lot will be a very practical and beneficial option, especially for parents who have children in different grade levels, but it will also be a large adjustment that both the GDS and Tenleytown communities will have to get used to. This current separation does not allow the younger and older members of the school to interact with each other and, if the two campuses were closer together, there could be more opportunities for connections between the high school, middle school, and lower school communities.
Currently, the lot across the street still holds a shelled-out Safeway in which a variety of winter sports teams have been practicing. Freshman Jordan Yates expressed concerns about what the winter track team will do without access to that space when it is converted into classrooms. While the teams will lose their current practice arrangement when Safeway is torn down, the new lower-middle school will include a field and other sports facilities in which both high school and lower-middle school teams can practice. Junior Ilana Zeilinger said that “although Safeway has proved to be a pretty convenient meeting and practice space for the winter season, it gets really stuffy in there when everyone’s running in circles and kicking up dust. I’m excited about the possibility of getting bigger and better sports facilities when we join with the LMS on a bigger campus.” The transition could bring an even better practicing space than the empty Safeway.
Some students have expressed doubts about bringing the lower-middle school across the street. Senior Esmé Levitch noted that merging the two campuses might “make new high school students feel more excluded,” because, in closing the gap between the lower-middle school and high school campuses, GDS newcomers could feel more out of place in their first weeks of high school than those who came up from the GDS eighth grade. The phenomenon of GDS students entering in ninth grade feeling out of place is quite common, however, this discomfort does not seem contingent on bringing the two campuses physically closer together. Levitch understood that the merger “makes financial sense,” and that more money equals more financial aid and higher teacher salaries,” yet, ultimately, conveyed that “I don’t think [campus unification] is necessarily in the high school students’ best interest.”
GDS has put incredible thought into ironing out the kinks that will come with campus unification in order to make sure that the process is ultimately beneficial for the entire community. While neighbors to the property might be worried about an increase in noise, measures are being taken to reduce the amount of noise heard such as building fences and planting trees. Furthermore, GDS instituted a plan to lessen the inevitable increase in traffic by obliging kids to carpool, use public transportation, bike, or walk to school when hundreds more students will eventually arrive to Davenport Street every day. While members of the neighborhood surrounding GDS may be frustrated with 500 new students coming to their neighborhood each day, the school is surely doing its part in making sure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
Ultimately, the entire GDS community will benefit from bringing the high school and lower middle-school campuses closer together. Working alongside an older and more mature population will allow younger students to learn and grow at an increased rate. Logistically, campus unification will allow for deeper relationships to develop between older and younger classes. Parents will have an easier time coordinating school dropoff and pickup when all of their kids are on the same campus, and coaches and teachers will even be able to have more flexibility working in all parts of the school. When the buildings are separated by a 15-second walk instead of a 15-minute drive, it will make for an easier and more convenient transit for GDS families.
By Bryce Savoy ’21