- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2001

The James F. Oyster Bilingual Elementary School in Ward 3s Cleveland Park neighborhood — the first new school in the District in 20 years — opened yesterday to a host of parents, students and public officials.
The new facility is the first fruit of a campaign to build and open nine schools throughout the city by 2004, said D.C. Schools Superintendent Paul Vance.
"Thats money in the bank," he said.
The new Oyster School, located at the intersection of 29th and Calvert streets and Cleveland Avenue NW, was built by the real estate development company LCOR Inc. and its partner, Northwest Mutual Life, in what LCOR Executive Vice President, R. William Hard calls "a land exchange."
"The deal was that we build the school, get the land to build our Henry Adams House apartment complex, and D.C. issued a 35-year tax-exempt bond," said Mr. Hard. The funds from the 211 mixed-units apartment building will more than pay for the entire cost of the school, he said. Over the next 35 years, LCOR will pay $804,000 per year to the city in lieu of taxes.
New schools and expanded bilingual programs are the focus for Mr. Vance and the D.C. school board right now, said Dwight Singleton, school board representative for District 2.
"We must begin to look at other types of partnerships, especially those with our universities to build new schools with new resources, even if the two entities share space," said Mr. Vance.
And if council member Kevin Chavous has his way, "at least eight to 10 schools will be built each year for the next 10 years." Mr. Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat, who was en route to a hearing on new school construction, said: "It is an ambitious plan, but if we can match the success that we have seen here today, and use creative funding techniques, I think it is possible."
The success he speaks of is the new 47,984-square-foot Oyster School, which will accommodate 350 students and was built using funds created through a public-private partnership — believed to be the first of its kind in the country.
The land where the apartment complex now stands nearly complete was once an acre of open field used by the school as a play area. Now, although the schools playground is smaller, the trade-off is remarkable, said Mr. Hard.
Mary Filardo, founder of the 21st Century School Fund, concurred that sacrifices made to build the school were more than worth it.
"We now have a 33-car garage. We get a basketball court, a gymnasium, a nature center, and we still have enough space for a smaller field," she said.
"Its quality versus quantity, but also a dream come true for the teachers and principal of the school," said Mr. Hard.
Mrs. Filardo founded 21st Century in 1994 for the purpose of getting a new Oyster School, but later found that her services were needed throughout the city. She is the mother of two graduates of the old Oyster School.
"The government had no idea how to do this and neither did we at first, but after we went to the private sector and were informed that it could work, we were shocked at how easy it would be," Mrs. Filardo said.
Her organization also is involved in the building the new Noyes Elementary School in Ward 5, which should be completed by the end of the year.

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