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  • Carys Shepard

Francis-Stevens Is Getting Renovated. What Does That Mean For Walls Athletics?

School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens is not well-known to many students at School Without Walls High School. Many students haven’t even set foot in its building. But as School Without Walls’s sister school, located just under a mile away, the elementary and middle school has been used by the high school for plays, assemblies and most frequently, athletics practices. However, that space is no longer available to any students and educators this year due to ongoing renovations.

“The school building was built in 1927, with the only addition onto the building being the gym,” Kip Smith, the Walls athletic director, said in an interview. “Almost 100 years later, it is overdue for renovations.”

Intensive renovations on the school building began this fall, and the school expects them to finish by August 2024. The renovations seek to “address Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements” that aim to improve accessibility, according to the DCPS website.

The renovated facility will incorporate 17,000 additional square feet, with modernized classrooms, dining areas and athletics areas. The renovations also plan to accommodate the growing population of Francis-Stevens: While 587 students currently attend the school, the building capacity is only 440. The new building will be larger, accommodating approximately 680 students.

Mr. Smith said that Walls has “been forced to find alternative sites” for volleyball and basketball, which used to rely on Francis-Stevens gyms. “Our volleyball team has been grateful for Lafayette [Lafayette Elementary School] being an option for us,” he said. “Our head volleyball coach is the principal for Lafayette, which has helped.”

Francis-Stevens itself has been temporarily relocated to Banneker High School’s old building. In the 2021-22 school year, Banneker was moved to what used to be Shaw Junior High School in order to accommodate an additional 300 students, freeing up the old building for Francis-Stevens’s use. The basketball teams will now practice at “the gym in Francis-Steven’s temporary home,” Mr. Smith said.

Although this gym is farther from Walls, the courts are regulation size for high school, an improvement from the middle school courts the teams used to practice on. The basketball teams hope this will prove helpful when preparing to play games at other high schools.

The temporary loss of Francis-Stevens will be a challenge for School Without Walls, particularly for the volleyball and basketball teams that have to travel far for practice every day. However, the two school communities hope these renovations will ultimately improve the lives of future generations of students.


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