For five consecutive school years, a giant 25-foot-by-5 foot heap of dirt had sat on the playground of Oyster Bilingual Elementary School in Woodley Park. Finally, more than a year after City Paper first covered the story, the pile is gone, replaced with a climbing wall for kids.
The developer who built the school had used dirt mound to disguise a slab of unsightly concrete that was reinforcing the playground area. But the mound became the truly unsightly thing when it lost its grass and deteriorated into a pile of dirt and rocks. When parents first proposed transforming the mound into a climbing wall, according to ANC Commissioner Deborah Jane Lindeman, D.C. Public Schools wouldn't allow it.
“The powers that be were just stubborn as all get out.” Lindeman says. She says that DCPS argued that the climbing wall and wouldn't be fair to disabled/handicapped students, even though the parents’ plans also included an ADA-compliant climbable rock. Complaining to School Board Superintendent Clifford Janey didn't do any good.
When DCPS finally gave the Oyster Community Council permission to finish the climbling wall last year, parents went to the local advisory neighborhood commission for a $17,100 grant to make the improvements.
Lindeman says she doesn't understand why DCPS was so stubborn in the first place. “They kept claiming that it wasn't ADA-compliant,” she says. “But neither is a mound of dirt and rocks and exposed concrete.”