Stakeholders Report on the
Proposed UDC Community College at Backus
the United States of America there are community colleges associated with public
universities. Community colleges typically address the needs
of the workforce, labor market, students with a high school education or
equivalency in need of remedial coursework, students looking for an affordable
education before attending a four year college program, and aspiring citizens
seeking professional and technical certifications and other professional
development at affordable costs.
University of the District of Columbia wants to establish a community college at
the now closed Backus Middle School in Northeast Washington, D.C. and is in the
process of developing a proposal to lease the public property from the District
of Columbia government for this purpose. UDC believes that
Backus is the ideal location for this endeavor and it is working to meet a March
27, 2009 deadline to submit their proposal and, if successful, begin setting up
programs for the Fall.
5 Councilmember Harry L. Thomas, Jr. initiated a series of meetings to gauge the
sentiments and position of residents/stakeholders located primarily in the
vicinity of Backus on the viability of a community college at
Backus. The goal is to preserve Backus as
an educational center and not to allow it to be used for purposes of which the
community would not approve or welcome.
UDC Community College Initiative (CCI) Team made several presentations on their
plans for Backus. Many concerns and issues were raised
and continue to be raised. While the CCI Team gave assurances
to the contrary, the community still insists that written statements be provided
that guarantee that community college students will be able to transfer their
credits to a four year UDC degree program or to other schools of higher
education. The community wants to make sure that the college
follows best practices and is designed to be a model, competitive program that
meets the values, needs, and interests of D.C. residents.
Furthermore, the community wants to be assured with written statements
and policies that the community college will in no way, directly or indirectly,
undermine or harm the progress, existence, operations, finances,
and/or future of UDC’s Van Ness main campus and its four year
also concern about the direct impact on the neighborhood where Backus is
located. There is concern about parking, traffic,
security/public safety, and the additional adult regular visitors to the
neighborhood. Significant development is expected in this
Upper Northeast area and it might become quite congested.
Additionally, citizens want to make sure that Backus is environmentally
safe and that the physical structure is not drastically transformed or
demolished. Backus should remain public property and under
the watchful eye of public officials, the community, and the police.
report, the community has outlined a host of conditions, caveats, stipulations,
and recommendations in order to gain its full support. As the
CCI Team writes the proposal, it is expected that these many of these items will
be incorporated into their proposal and UDC/CCI policies. For
instance, stakeholders would like the community college to allow reasonable
access to the gymnasium, auditorium, and multipurpose room.
Backus should remain a polling place for Precinct 66.
There should be special programs for seniors and community
youth. There should be community participation on a CCI board
or council. A state of the art computer lab should be open to
the community. Several educational programs have been
suggested for the community college. Office space should be
reserved for select community groups, e.g., ANCs. In
conclusion, there is general, qualified, provisional support for the community
college. The community must continue discussions with UDC to
concerned citizens, wish to express our appreciation to the following groups and
individuals for providing their input at meetings and elsewhere in order to
develop this report. Material for this document has been
compiled from various comments at meetings and from a multitude of electronic
correspondence. Leadership on this project was provided by
the Office of Councilmember Harry L. Thomas, Jr. in order to
ensure that the voice of community was heard regarding the usage of Backus
Councilmember Harry L. Thomas, Sr.
Grace Lewis, Chief of Staff, Office of Councilmember
University of the District of Columbia Community College
Dr. Eurmon Hervey, CEO/Executive Director of the
Community College Initiative (CCI)
Thomas E. Redmond, Deputy Director, Government
Relations, University of the District of Columbia
Barbara Franklin Jumper, University of the District of
North Michigan Park Civic Association
Lamond-Riggs Citizens Association, Inc.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5A
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B
Premier Community Development Corporation
Queens Chapel Civic Association
D.C. Federation of Civic Associations
University of the District of Columbia (retired and
current staff, students)
that helped supply information, write, review, provide feedback, and/or edit the
Kathryn A. Pearson-West, PMP
Debbie L. Smith
Hazel Bland Thomas
Dominique N. A. West
Neighborhoods (Ward 5 & Ward 4) near Backus Middle School That May Be
North Michigan Park
Stakeholdersand Meeting Participants that Expressed Pros and Cons of Initiative
for Analysis and for Input on the Reuse of Backus
Lady Patricia Butler
Katie S. Gaskins
Edward B. Harrison
Charon P.W. Hines
Eric J. Jones
Kathryn A. Pearson-West
Albrette “Gigi” Ransom
Debbie L. Smith
Hazel Bland Thomas
Alice J. Walker
Dominique N. A. West
and General Assumptions
1.1 Community Interest and
Support; Examination of Pros and Cons of Reuse of Backus as Community
College. The purpose of this report is to explore
and communicate the community's interests, concerns, and recommendations
regarding the possible use of Backus Middle School as a community college, which
has been articulated at meetings and through electronic
communications. The University of the District of Columbia
(UDC) is in the process of developing a proposal to submit by March 27, 2009
(date extended from February 27th) that outlines its initiative for a
community college. The community is charged with providing
feedback on this idea so that UDC might consider some of the feedback and
recommendations in its proposal and operations. There is no
guarantee that a proposal for the community college at Backus will be accepted
by the District of Columbia.
that the all of the ideas and comments presented in this document do not
necessarily reflect the sentiments, opinions, and values of each and every
meeting participant, contributor, or organization, but do provide an indication
of the community‘s perspective on the reuse of Backus as a community college or
Assumptions. Concerned citizens appear to be
willing to explore the possibility of a community college at Backus, however
they are operating with a few general assumptions that they have adopted and
with which they are operating in good faith. The
community does not want to do anything that will undermine the mission,
function, or future of the UDC.
Furthermore, the community expects that UDC will be
able to maintain the building and programs with the dedication of the proper
financial and human capital resources. It also expects a
commitment to excellence. If the assumptions are not met or
assurances are not granted, then the community may need to rethink the Community
College Initiative to make sure that there is not an adverse impact on the
community or on the four year university. There are several
assumptions and conditions that the community are taking for granted and if they
are not met, then other stipulations arise or support is limited or threatened
Assumption 1. The community college
will not undermine the operations and future of UDC or its land grant
Assumption 2. There will be
adequate capital, programmatic, and operating funding for the initiation of the
community college and in the future during its entire existence, or at least
projected through the next ten years.
Assumption 3. The UDC proposal
has a possible chance of being approved by the Executive Office of the
Assumption 4. The UDC location
on Connecticut Avenue, commonly known as “the Van Ness Campus” will not directly
or indirectly be harmed, dismantled, changed, relocated, or placed under duress
for the purpose of development.
Assumption 5. There is not adequate
space on the Van Ness Campus for expansion to include a community
college. The Van Ness campus is expected to utilize the space
for other educational endeavors.
Assumption 6. The UDC community
college will not have an overall negative impact on the community in which is
Assumption 7. The community
will be able to stay involved in the direction of the community college to
protect its own interest in the community in which the college is
Assumption 6. There is adequate
space for the UDC community college at Backus to accommodate the projected
enrollment and students and staff will not exceed space
for Proposals for Reuse of Closed D.C. Public Schools and History of
Closure. Backus Middle School was built in the 1960s to
relieve overcrowding at nearby Taft Junior High School. In
2007, against the wishes of many in the neighborhoods near Backus, the District
of Columbia government decided to close the school because of declining
enrollment and move the current and future students to the LaSalle
School. The school closed in 2008. With
Backus now closed, along with several other public schools in the District of
Columbia, the D.C. government issued a Request for Proposals for
interested parties to submit proposals for the use of Backus and several other
schools. The original deadline for proposals was February 27, 2009 but was
extended to March 27, 2009.
Rationale for a UDC Community College at Backus.
Backus Middle School, a 126,800-square-foot building on 2.91
acres, at 5171 South Dakota Ave. NE (between Galloway and Hamilton Streets), is
located near a Federal park and a major Metro station (walking distance) that is
a transfer point for the Red, Green, and Yellow lines and ample bus
lines. It spans three wings and three floors.
It has two fenced in parking lots—one large and one small.
Inside are offices, classrooms, gymnasium with locker rooms, a cafeteria,
a multipurpose room, an outside terrace, and an auditorium.
It is located in Ward 5, Washington, D.C.
Assessment of Impact of and Interest in UDC Community College.
The UDC Community College
Initiative (CCI) Team approached Ward 5 Councilmember Harry L. Thomas, Jr. to
let him know of UDC’s interest in using Backus as the site for their proposed
community college. As a result, Councilmember Thomas began
hosting meetings to determine the community’s interest and support.
Councilmember Thomas also wanted to make sure that the
immediate neighborhood would not be negatively impacted by such a
venture. The first meeting was small and primarily
focused on a few neighbors that resided closest to Backus. It
was held at the Lamond-Riggs Recreation Center on February 9, 2009.
Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser attended this meeting.
The next meeting attracting a larger, broader audience was
held on February 18, 2009 at the Lamond-Riggs Library. The
third meeting was held on February 28, 2009. At each meeting,
members of the Community College Initiative (CCI) made presentations and
answered questions. Citizens have been encouraged to talk to
their organizations about the proposal to gain further insight on what citizens
want and expect.
Backus as an Educational Center. The Office of
Planning held meetings to determine what the possible re-use of Backus Middle
School might be. One desired use is to use Backus as an
educational center. Many citizens are cool to the idea of
developers possibly tearing down the building, converting them to condos, or
using it for some business endeavor with which the community might not
welcome. Some citizens are also concerned about the density
of projects in the community and therefore prefer to maintain Backus as an
educational center, which is along the lines of its original purpose.
Brookings Institute Analysis of Need for Community College in District of
Columbia. According to a study done by Brookings Institute, community
colleges serve a diverse student body from all social and economic
backgrounds. Community colleges have flexible schedules and
offerings with a wide array of academic and occupationally-focused certificate
and associate programs. These programs are usually tied to
the regional labor market.
there are Associate degree programs that have clear, stated agreements with
four-year degree programs to facilitate transfers from the Associate degree to a
four year college. Brookings observes that community colleges
also provide strong developmental courses for students that may need additional
support with their reading, writing, or math skills, which are required for
college-level coursework. Community colleges provide support
and guidance services to help students succeed.
Based on its analysis, the
Brookings Institute states that the District needs a community college to carry
out the aforementioned types of functions in addition to helping to prepare the
workforce. It notes that not all occupations in the
city and surrounding suburbs require a four-year or more degree.
The study states that nearly a third of the jobs in
Washington, D.C. are attainable by workers that have some
postsecondary training or a two-year degree, but not a four year college degree.
Brookings cites the Census estimates for 2005 that
suggest that more than 111,000 working-age adults in the city have no
post-secondary education. It is noted that too often
the D.C. residents with a high school degree or less have higher poverty and
unemployment rates than those with some postsecondary education and college
the 50 largest American cities, Washington is the only one without a fully
fledged community college one. According to Brookings,
the District’s only public institution of higher education, the University of
the District of Columbia (UDC), has with the dual missions of a community
college and a state university.
Institute outlines three options for creating a community college in the
District: (1) Create a community college within UDC; (2) create a freestanding
community college from an incubator institution; or (3) create a community
college network that strengthens and ties together sub-baccalaureate offerings
at UDC and other institutions in the city and suburbs.
Each of these options would require a substantial
commitment from city leaders and major new investments in higher
education. None of the options call for eliminating UDC’s
state university functions in favor of a community college mission.
According to the University of the District of
Columbia, it has decided to pursue option one and create a community within UDC,
only locate it at the closed Backus Middle School.