NEWS | Aug. 27, 2021

Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, LEARN D.C. celebrate on-base charter school opening

By Brian Nestor, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Public Affairs

JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, Washington D.C. – Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling and LEARN D.C. hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 26 at the school site to celebrate the opening of the first charter school on the installation.

Representatives from JBAB and the 11th Wing, LEARN Charter School Network and LEARN D.C., Ward 8 Parent Operator Selection Team, D.C. State Board of Education, D.C. Public Charter School Board, Ward 8, the Area Neighborhood Council Ward 8D, and more gathered to celebrate the milestone.

JBAB partnered with LEARN DC to bring a rigorous academic program to children from military and civilian families in D.C.

The LEARN Charter School Network based in Chicago serves more than 4,000 students  annually, and guided LEARN D.C to sign a 25-year lease agreement with the Air Force in 2021. This commitment ensures an entire generations of students will have access to high-quality education.

Students of the charter school were selected by a lottery system. Fifty percent of the seats are reserved for D.C. children and 50 percent of the seats are reserved for children of active-duty service members at JBAB.

Greg White, LEARN Charter School Network president and CEO, spoke at the event and talked about how the dream of having a school at JBAB started with devoted parents.

“As I started researching, apparently the idea of opening a school on JBAB was discussed in the 1960s,” said White. “But in 2016 a group of parents started meeting and dreaming, planning and working together. The group was named Ward 8 POST and consisted of military and Ward 8 parents. Five years forward, today is more than a celebration of a dream, today is the celebration of hard work, tenacity, cooperation, compromise and, most of all, perseverance.” 

Col. Mike Zuhlsdorf, JBAB and 11th Wing commander, lauded those who initiated the project, expressed appreciation for the many organizations and units that worked hard to bring it to fruition, and conveyed his hopes of what intangible benefits having the school will bring. 

Col. Zuhlsdorf then shared his hope about the impact LEARN DC will have on the community and the children who attend the school.

“I am inspired by the thought of our military students who will share their perspectives – their highlights and their struggles in being from a military family – with their D.C. classmates. And I am equally inspired knowing our D.C. children will share their own life perspectives and experiences. I am inspired thinking about the relationships that can be forged amongst parents from different walks of life – military and civilian – as we grow more together as a community,” said Zuhlsdorf.

The first day of classes for the LEARN D.C. charter school is Aug. 30.

The school will begin with classes for children pre-kindergarten aged three through first grade, adding another grade level each year until the eighth grade. A maximum of 550 students will be enrolled in the school.

Parents from JBAB and Ward 8 were also at the event and were looking forward to having a school at JBAB.

“We have never had a school that was located on base where we lived, and that will make a huge difference in terms of flexibility and having a built in community already here,” said Caitlin Wall, JBAB Coast Guard spouse whose son will attend pre-K at LEARN D.C.

Among those celebrating the ribbon-cutting and meeting with children from the inaugural classes were several LEARN D.C. teachers.

“This is a new experience, and I can’t wait to see all the great adventures we will have with the students,” said Whitney Foster, a LEARN D.C. teacher. “I want the students to know they have a safe and nurturing environment, and hope we can instill a love of learning for them.”