NEWS | Aug. 9, 2021

Charter school construction continues on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling

By Staff Sgt. Kayla White Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Public Affairs

Construction is on track for an August 30 opening day of LEARN D.C., Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling’s first charter school.

“We had a lot of things to pull together to make this possible,” said Katherine Keller-Kratzer, 11th Civil Engineer Squadron deputy commander. “There’s not a part of the civil engineer squadron that this project hasn’t touched.”

Her and her team have been involved in every step of the process, including planning, site surveys, environmental assessments, traffic impact studies and coordinating with numerous on- and off-base units and agencies for support. They also contributed the scope development and resource estimate for an extension of the visitor center, which will serve as a student drop-off center for non-Department of Defense students. All of this effort led to securing funding for a 25-year lease agreement, which was signed by the U.S. Air Force on Jan.26.

The school will operate in temporary facilities on base while a permanent school facility is built.

“My construction guys have been out there every week providing important oversight to civilian contractors to ensure construction standards are met,” Keller-Kratzer said. “I am exceptionally proud.”

LEARN D.C. will bring together children of military members who work on the installation, as well as children from the local community. It will provide education to children in pre-kindergarten age three through first grade, adding an additional grade level each year until they reach the eighth grade.

 “We are the only school in D.C. that is allowed to preference 50 percent of our students as those from military-connected families,” said Dr. Jill Gaitens, LEARN D.C. executive director. “It was a deep honor to be chosen to serve this community.”

The Ward 8 Parent Operator Selection Team, or POST, made up of military parents and parents from Washington D.C.’s Ward 8, came together to select a new school that would best serve their children. They conducted years of extensive research, which included site surveys of existing LEARN facilities.

“As the experts in the needs of their community, they wanted an academically excellent school with a positive and loving culture,” said Gaitens. “One that understood the unique needs of children of military families who face the challenge of starting school in a new community every two years and of Ward 8 students who face stresses such as poverty, violence, and homelessness.In short, the parents were able to articulate needs that no educational expert could define on their behalf.”

LEARN DC operates with five core values at its foundation:
  1. Creating and maintaining a Culture of Respect
  2. Holding students to High Expectations, academically
  3. Providing a Safe and Nurturing Environment
  4. Focusing on Whole Child development
  5. Promoting high levels of Family Involvement
LEARN may be new to D.C., but it has been operating for more than 20 years, serving more than 4,000 students on 10 campus locations.

“We are confident in our ability to serve this community well because we have two high-performing schools serving both military and community children from Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois,” Gaitens said. “It was the success of these schools that caught the attention of the POST (Ward 8 and military families). LEARN has a proven track record of success at each of our 10 schools in Illinois where our alumni graduate college eight points above the national average and more than twice the rate of their peers when tracked from ninth grade. We are thrilled to bring that knowledge and success to D.C.”

Beyond its proven track record of academic achievement, LEARN D.C. is expected to have another significant impact for JBAB and D.C. families.

“I have spoken to fourth and fifth generation Ward 8 residents who have never been on JBAB, and I speak daily with military families that rarely interact with their neighbors off base,” said Gaitens. “When children attend school together, friendships are forged — not just for children but for families. The children on our campus will not be military or civilian; they will be children, creating friendships as they learn and grow together.”

The intent for this type of integration is to cultivate the strong community ties to ensure levels of communication, appreciation and cooperation that would otherwise be impossible.

“They'll share birthday parties, picnics, sports teams, milestones, and celebrations,” said Gaitens. “Schools are the center of communities. We look forward to creating shared norms, traditions and relationships at LEARN D.C. In the decades ahead, imagine the memories, experiences and friendships these families will share.”

For more information about the LEARN charter school system and how to apply for enrollment at LEARN D.C., please visit www.learncharter.org