Feb 6, 2014

Inhumane Learning Conditions at DC's Orr Elementary School: Learning in a Vault

Orr Elementary Vault classroom
By Candi Peterson

vault. a room or compartment, often built of or lined with steel, reserved for the storage and safekeeping of valuables, especially such a place in a bank.

At Benjamin Orr elementary school located at 2200 Minnesota Avenue SE Washington, DC 20020, 202/671-6240 some special needs students are subjected to inhumane learning conditions in a tomb-like vault. The school's principal is Niyeka Wilson.

Yes you heard right; special needs students at this East of the river school are being taught in a vault. Not intended for human habitation. An outside vault door, which if closed could lock and trap those within poses a scary proposition for some of Orr's elementary school students. If not for an exterior door, and the ingenuity of staff whom work there, who dismantled a side vent to allow for some ventilation and a teacher purchased fan, the heat soars even on the coldest of days.

At this same school, a visit revealed that a music teacher's classroom lacked adequate space for her musical equipment and 42 students who sit side-by-side like sardines squished in this cramped space. This certainly cant be conducive for inspiring students to learn instrumental music. Heat in this fabricated space (with no windows) soars as high as 93 degrees in the wintertime and causes some young minds to focus more on the sweat on their foreheads than their lessons.

With all the fancy DC Public Schools renovations that have been completed and still are underway, there remain conditions like these in our schools where students are forced to suffer due to an adequate lack of resources, in addition to poor judgment on the part of some school administrators who subject our must vulnerable students to inhumane conditions.

Despite the DC Municipal rule making- Title 5, A81 which states- " A school shall provide and maintain a physical plant with living and study conditions appropriate for programs of study offered and for the size of the faculty and student body. The physical plant shall provide a safe and secure environment for the school's students, faculty and staff, " these types of scenes still occur within our schools.

When parents send their children to school, they expect their children to have optimum conditions for learning. It's no reason schools like Orr, even if short on space couldn't provide better learning and teaching conditions. We all know that these types of conditions are not only harmful but unproductive as well.

If we are to be successful in raising the growing achievement gap in  DC's lowest performing public schools located East of the river, then we must do better than teaching our students in a vault or in make-shift classrooms with sweltering temperatures that lack adequate personal space. As parents and educators we can't allow this inhumanity.




14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Orr's special needs children were forced out of their room and into a vault because the principal demanded the space for the new assistant principal's office.

Why not put the asst. principal in the vault? Surely, the principal does not have children as her 1st priority. She's more concerned about making her long time friend comfortable and happy as the asst. principal.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this breaking some sort of fire code? Why is it always the special needs students who are detailed to such horrendous learning environments? And isn't this the same principal who wrote disparaging statements about a parent on FB? Hmmmmmm. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Seems like not much is different from when I started my stint with DCPS in 1977!

Anonymous said...

Omg. I know my daddy flipping in his grave over how his school went down. He was the first black principal and the first principal of Orr up until he retired. The computer lab is named after him... If he was alive he would be going to that school to see wth was going on.

Anonymous said...

I am livid!! Something has to be done about the situation ASAP. I am really speechless. Orr was the best elementary school east of the river. In fact it was a model school and now it is shamed.

Anonymous said...

This is off the chain ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly sure what Kaya is waiting for. This principal should at least be on administrative leave while DCPS gets to the bottom of everything.

DCPS, why are you dragging your feet? Is it because this school is in Southeast??

I feel terrible for the teachers and staff and students who have to be there while she is the principal

Anonymous said...

This principal has subjected Orr's Special Ed. Early Childhood students to inhumane conditions. This vault is in the back of an all purpose /lunchroom room and isolated from all classrooms. This room was used for storage.
Orr 's vault storage rooms have combination locks and are located on each of the 4. A combination code is needed to open these vaults. Most of these codes are lost. No windows, poor ventilation and dangerous learning conditions. Sounds like a 3rd world school.
This principal puts her self first. She needs to go. This would not happen west of the park!!!!

Tooeasy Rel said...

As a former student of Orr Elementary school, I am appalled to see the foundation of my educational framework reduced to a school of low standards and even lower Focus on the Children of the school. There was a period in time where Orr was one of the most technologically advanced elementary school's, as well as one of the most decorated Academically. Furthermore, I cannot express enough, the disgust this story brings me, Knowing that these children were put into an inhumane situation to make room for an adult to have an office. If my memory serves me correct, There were 3 offices on the 1st floor, and the room that was being used as a classroom was also seen as a suitable office for a PE teacher. I do not understand how a school of that stature could ever be short on space, but then again, that would also imply that the school is well managed, mildly organized, and a somewhat educational experience for the young people. Seeing this story, however, Makes me believe otherwise. This story also saddens me, because I know the foundation of success that Orr Elementary instilled in me and my fellow alumnus.

Richard said...

This is another example of how public school children are treated by Kya Henderson, THE CHANCELLOR. What learning could be going on under these conditions? The chancellor and the principal should be fired by Mayor Gray. Oh, sorry, I forgot that the mayor is too busy reminding us (once again) of his early childhood education success story. Remember DCPS principals have no retention rights, so Ms. Wilson should be given 24 hours to pack. The Deputy Mayor for Education should purchase the bus ticket. PARENTS and TEACHERS you must stand up for your children. Remember this is a political year. Time to boot (I mean vote) people out.

Anonymous said...

Check out Bruce Johnson's twitter about this.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. This is not a result of poor teaching. Dcps hired this principal. This atrocity happened because of poor hiring practices and abusive management. One cannot help but worry about what other abuses have taken place because of poor decision making.

Anonymous said...

Principals support or berate parents. Dcps hires principals. Ms. Henderson is in charge of Dcps. Mayor Gray hired Ms. Henderson. Parents and teachers vote for the Mayor of DC. A domino effect.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Boone was the best. The school has spiraled down hill since he, Dr. Flagg, and the long term veteran staff left. Must be painful for those left to see this downward trend.

Anonymous said...

Please continue your research on Niyeka Wilson and her best friend Omolara Magassouba. (Asst Principal) During her tenure at her previous school she abused her power as principal often berating staff and parents. Her #1 priority was never about the children but about the convenience and comfortability of she and her best friend. In addition to the cheating scandal in which both were involved...they were allegedly misappropriating funds for personal use to cause a deficit in the budget and a freeze to be placed on salary increases for 3 yrs. The turn over rate for staff and students was horrible...every year half the staff was new and families pulled out in anger and disgust over her leadership....or lack thereof. It should be noted that Niyeka was given the option to resign by her former boss., Michael Depass. The following year her best friend's position of Asst Principal(Omolara Magass) was conveniently abolished. Somehow she found her way to be with her best friend at Orr. Had K. Henderson and DCPS did their research, they would have NEVER hired these two. Most ppl who know them on a personal level were VERY surprised that they were able to get at another school after the Iack of character and total disregard for students families and staff. Orr will continue to be on a downward spiral if they remain at the helm.