Parents Tell Councilmember Catania: Our Children Deserve Classrooms


Orr Elementary School (DCPS) parents invited David Catania, Councilmember and chair of the Education Committee, to hear their stories and tour the building which badly needs modernization. Nearly 30 parents attended with their children, along with teachers and members of the local community. Parents expressed their concerns about the safety of the playground; stagnant air and poor natural lighting; places where the building is crumbling; and, most significantly, the open floor plan (in which there are no walls separating classrooms or hallways). The modernization was slated to begin eight years ago but has been delayed every year since.

Teaching for Change, a partner with the Orr Parent Center, helped plan and facilitate the event which featured parent leaders. A father talked about how his three-year old daughter wandered off from her classroom in her first week of school and could not be found for nearly an hour. “Where could she have gone if her classroom had walls and a door?” he asked the Councilmember. A teacher discussed how the open-space classrooms presents enormous challenges for himself and others, particularly where classrooms are separated only by a rolling chalkboard or less. A mother shared that her daughter’s asthma flares up so badly that she and the school have a plan for her daughter to be moved from the third floor to the first floor when she has episodes. Another mother shared how the school had not only wrapped itself around her son in Kindergarten, but also supported her; she recently earned her GED after getting information and support from Orr’s well-known Parent Center.

The consistent theme among parents and teachers was their love for the school and the staff, but yet the urgent need for the school to be modernized. Councilmember Catania thanked the parents for sharing their stories and pledged to be a champion for Orr’s modernization.

Read more about this story here “No Place to Hide: Orr Elementary Needs Modernization Now!”

More photos.


Parent Testimonials

From David, parent of two students

“Orr doesn’t have any windows or walls in their classrooms. I have become used to this over the years my children have been going here and hardly think about the walls and windows now. When I went to read to my daughters class that was all I could think about. While I was trying to read, everything was a distraction. A book that should have taken me 5 minutes to read took 20! Because there are no walls all the noises in the other classrooms are a distractions. Other children talking, laughing, running, crying, teachers teaching or disciplining others, visitors walking around the school – anything can get the students off task. Because my child’s class is by the door, the teacher had to keep getting up to answer the door if people were trying to come onto the floor. It was exhausting to read to the students for those 20 minutes.

Now I have so much respect for the teachers. The teachers at Orr are not only great teachers, but they have to deal with no walls, no windows, no fresh air, old carpets and hardly any supplies. Teachers at Orr have a harder job then teachers at other schools just because of the building and the set up. It’s not fair that their jobs are harder, that are building is old and falling apart and that our children are missing out on being able to pay full attention in their classrooms. We deserve the best for our students. Renovate Orr!”


 From Cherise, parent

“The Orr community welcomed us with open arms. The teachers and the parents are really nice and supportive. But the building is shocking. There are no walls in the classrooms, no windows and definitely no technology. There are TVs in some classrooms but none of them work. The building is incredibly old, the paint is pealing, the carpet has permanent stains, all the furniture is old and breaking and there is no air circulation.

My son really likes his classmates and his teachers, but he doesn’t understand why the building is the way it is. He asks me, “Why does the school look like it’s falling apart?” I shouldn’t have to take him all the way [across town] to be in a safe building. Renovate Orr!”


Teaching for Change has been a community partner of Orr Elementary since 2010. Our work with parents at Orr is funded through generous grants from The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, and an anonymous foundation.