|Orr Elementary Vault classroom|
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.