BY ELLA FELDMAN, STYLE EDITOR
An official historic landmark lies just about 500 yards away from Wilson. The Jesse Reno School, which was open to students around the Tenleytown neighborhood in the early twentieth century, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. This landmark is currently under renovation to become an addition to Alice Deal Middle School and accommodate 460 more students.
Along with the renovation of the Reno School itself, a passage has been built to connect the main school building to the Reno School. This addition allows for more classrooms and therefore accommodates more students.
This past school year, the new addition was tested out. Between the Reno School and the connecting building, 16 teachers taught students in brand new classrooms. The addition includes a multipurpose room that is available for use by all teachers, meaning that more than just those 16 benefit from the new space.
Evette Brown, who teaches French to sixth and seventh grade students, says she benefited from having a classroom much larger than she was used to in the Reno School. Although it was sometimes a challenge to be able to watch all the students in such a large space, she comments, “When I do one-on-one work with students, it actually feels like one-on-one, because there is more space between the students so that our conversations can be more personal.”
Her students also seemed to enjoy the addition. Aside from a few complaints about the distance between the two buildings, the students appreciated being in a historic building. “They were just as invested in taking care of the building as the adults were,” says Brown.
New technology that came with her classroom included a microphone and a smartboard.
The Reno School was pioneered in 1903, opening its doors to the children of Reno City, an integrated suburban development located in Tenleytown. The school had a capacity of 160 students, from kindergarten to eighth grade. The architect, Snowden Ashford, worked very hard to build better schools for the children of DC; his other projects included Ellington School of the Arts and Eastern High School. The renovated version of the school has the same floorplan as it did in 1903, meaning the classrooms are all in their original locations.
The school had full enrollment for the next two decades, and from 1917 to 1927 it also hosted night classes for African American adults. In the 1920s, black residents of Reno City began to be displaced due to pressure from the surrounding all-white neighborhoods. As this happened, the number of students attending the Reno School dwindled. In 1950, the school finally closed its doors.
“Every day that I go to work, I try to reflect on what type of learning had gone on in the building so long ago.” says Brown. “How could I make a difference as the teachers had so long ago with so few resources? I get to be in a part of history and create a history of my own. That’s monumental!”
Walls in the new addition are decorated with beautiful panels containing information about the history of the school and the surrounding Tenleytown area. The panels include a timeline of Tenleytown, photos relating to the history of the neighborhood, and information about the creation and restoration of the Reno school itself.
There has been discussion about adding similar panels in Wilson, near the top of the main stairs in the atrium. These panels would contain information about the history of Wilson. Anyone interested in participating in such a project should talk to Head Librarian Pamela Gardner or Library Media Center Assistant Elizabeth Levinson.
PHOTOS BY ELLA FELDMAN