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Mayor Bowser Cuts Ribbon on Modernized Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Today, Mayor Bowser cut the ribbon on the fully modernized Duke Ellington School of the Arts, located at 3500 R Street, NW. The Mayor was joined at the ribbon cutting by Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles, DC Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson, Director of the Department of General Services Greer Johnson Gillis, co-founder Peggy Cooper Cafritz, and the Duke Ellington School Improvement Team (SIT), the Ellington Board, current and former students, and members of the community.

“While the main story at Duke Ellington continues to be the talent of the students and staff, we are thrilled to be able to welcome them back to school at this tremendous, state-of-the-art building,” said Mayor Bowser. “The beauty and amenities at the modernized Duke Ellington School of the Arts are unrivaled, and as a city, we are so proud to be able to support and celebrate some of our most talented young artists as they learn, grow, and hone their craft.”

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts was established in 1974 by DC philanthropist and avid art collector Peggy Cooper Cafritz and choreographer, director, and teacher Mike Malone, and remains the sole DC public high school to offer a dual curriculum encompassing professional arts training and academic enrichment. Prior to 1974, the building housed Western High School. The school is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Students, who come from all eight wards, are admitted to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts through an audition and interview process. Majors offered at the school include: dance, instrumental music, literary media and communications, museum studies, technical design and production, theater, visual arts, and vocal music.

The renovated 279,524 square-foot building includes:

  • 800 seat, state-of-the-art multi-discipline main theatre
  • 300 seat intimate recital performance hall
  • 150 seat black box theatre
  • roof-top educational terrace
  • 6 dance studios
  • 4 art studios
  • printmaking studio
  • 2 digital art studios
  • 3 theater studios
  • 2 technical design and production studios
  • paint/scene shop
  • costume shop
  • 4 make-up rooms
  • multiple vocal labs
  • multiple instrumental music labs
  • 22 practice rooms
  • 7 lesson studios
  • 6 graphics/sound/film/video labs
  • 2 writing and journalism labs
  • 2 museum studies labs
  • 2 biology labs
  • 2 chemistry labs
  • 1 physics lab
  • underground parking garage with approximately 50 spaces

“Through this project, I have had a unique opportunity to work with a stellar group of skilled professionals from every sector of the construction industry,” said DGS Director Greer Johnson Gillis. “Their dedication and hard work is evident in every inch of this magnificent building.”

Additionally, with high performance and efficient lighting systems and plumbing, two 25,000-gallon cisterns that collect rain water for use in toilets and sinks, and a green roof and stormwater bio retention areas, the new building is eco-friendly, energy efficient, and designed to meet the LEED Gold Certification.

During the school’s modernization, students and staff have been housed at Meyer and Garnett-Patterson. On Monday, approximately 600 students will return for the 2017-2018 school year.

At the ribbon cutting, as part of the Bowser Administration’s Every Day Counts! tour, the Mayor also highlighted the importance of students attending school every day. School attendance is a key predictor of student achievement, and in DC, approximately one out of every four students is chronically absent, meaning they miss 10 percent or more of the entire school year. By sixth grade, missing 10 percent of the school year is strongly linked to dropping out of high school. Together, Mayor Bowser and the Every Day Counts! Task Force, spearheaded by the DME, will combat chronic absenteeism by increasing coordination across public agencies and stakeholders, investing in data-driven strategies to increase attendance rates, and rewarding students and schools that improve attendance throughout the school year.