DC Council Education Committee Budget Hearing – Testimony by Bernetta Reese, Watkins ES

Good morning.  My name is Bernetta Reese and I am here to represent 540 students at Watkins Elementary.  I have 2 students in the first and third grade at the school. As a parent and representative of my school community, I want to say to you today that I am disappointed that Mayor Gray’s budget has pushed Watkins modernization back to Fiscal Year 2016 which means it has been moved back three times in the last four budget cycles.  Watkins can no longer wait for modernization.  Our school has many issues that need to be addressed.


In the 2008 DCPS Master Facility Plan for Watkins, 7 of the 10 major building systems as were marked as “Poor” or “Unsatisfactory.”  The school does not meet current building code standards and physical deficiencies are well-documented in the report.  The fire alarm system is non-compliant and the building does not have a sprinkler system.  This is especially concerning given that last year, there were two gas leaks at the school and the building had to be evacuated.  This is an urgent matter that affects the learning environment and safety of our children.


In addition, Watkins building temperature is such that students have had to wear winter coats with hoods depending on where they are in the building. During the week of DCCAS, air conditioning was needed but it was not available – making the learning and testing environment more difficult for our students.


The DCPS Education Specification for Watkins reveals that 85% of our classrooms are too small which means our school is overcrowded.  Our multipurpose room/cafeteria is less than half the size it should be for a combined use room.  Because of this, indoor recess is held in a 1200 square foot room converted from classroom space.  This space is just 36% of the size that it should be.

We appreciate the effort by this Committee last year to secure funding for new windows to be installed this summer.  But it’s not enough and Watkins cannot be ignored for another 2 years. We are in dire need for phase 1 of the modernization to begin to provide our children with a healthy and safer school.  Thank you for your time.


Testimony of

Bernetta Reese

Parent at Watkins Elementary

Education Budget Oversight Hearing

Thursday, April 17, 2014  10:00 a.m.

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500


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