Here’s to Roosevelt High: an alum looks at the school’s opening

An excited crowd at the school's opening ceremony on August 19th

By Lois Cooper
On Friday, August 19th, I drove north on 13th Street towards the newly renovated Roosevelt Senior High School for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony set up to unveil the city’s “$140 million investment.” As I got closer to my destination, the cupola of the school came into view; I was filled with mixed feelings. I knew it would be the beginning of a new era for my alma mater. 
The ceremony had a good turnout of people that gathered on the landing in the front of the school where the two staircases come together. There was an eclectic mix of attendees including Mayor Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd, Interim Chancellor John Davis and many other city officials. 

There were alumni that I personally connected with from the classes of 1957, ’65, ’67, ’69, ’76 and ’82. It appeared to be a sea of people wearing orange and blue apparel representing the Roosevelt Rough Riders school colors. The community also came out to partake in the festivities and celebrate the once neglected architectural structure. It had the feel of a nice cookout with hamburgers, hot dogs and chips on the menu. 

Tatiana Bendeck and Bill Griffin, members of the architectural design team from Perkins Eastman, were present at the ceremony. They were really pleased to see how well their design concept for the school was being received. Bill talked about how they shored up the cupola and added the lights so it could be a “beacon of light” for the community, something I already felt on my drive towards the school that day. I joined the alumni singing Roosevelt’s school song before the ribbon cutting. It felt official, we were passing the baton. Passing the memories and the legacy on to another generation and era to build upon.  

The school is awesome. 

A view of the cupola from inside Roosevelt's renovated atrium

Mayor Bowser remarked, “It's been 25 years since students could walk through the front door.” That comment was sad, as that entrance was one thing that I remembered most about going to Roosevelt, how it felt ascending the curved staircase and hurrying through the foyer to rush off to class before the bell. It was powerful experience for me re-entering the main entrance with art deco black and white tile floors and the bust of Theodore Roosevelt front and center.

Now, with the front entrance reopened, I passed the restored murals uncovered during renovation and looked out into the courtyard atrium. It has a splendid panoramic view with lots of natural lighting.  

The renovated front entrance

One of the restored murals inside main entrance

Roosevelt houses two schools: Roosevelt Stay and Roosevelt Senior High. Roosevelt Stay is a vocational-based school that offers culinary and cosmetology programs. The program is for individuals who have passed typical high school age. 

Roosevelt Senior High has classes on the 2nd and 3rd floors, and has all the bells and whistles we could never have dreamed of as students attending school there. They have a modern cafeteria with a drop-down screen to show educational programs as the students have lunch. There is a new library/media center, a pool with a viewing deck, a medical center equipped with exam rooms, a dental office, a fitness center, a modernized gym and new tennis court outside. It’s pretty impressive. 

Aqueelha James, Roosevelt's new principal

I spoke to a few teachers who were busy preparing their classrooms for the first day of school. They expressed excitement about the new facility and the hope for the new direction in education at Roosevelt. Aqueelha James, Roosevelt’s new principal, is as excited about the new vision and path for education as she is about the new facility. She said, “Not only is there a global approach to learning for students, but also for the faculty.” She explained that the global approach encompasses “inquiry and problem thinking,” based on the STEM concept (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). 

The new educational focus at Roosevelt consists of: 

  • Learning using virtual interactions with other classrooms across the nation/globe  
  • Dual language program from grades 9-12 (a straight continuation from Powell Elementary and MacFarland’s programs) 
  • Partnering with Georgetown University and Project Zero Harvard University program, which Mayor Bowser refers to as an “international experience.”  

The foundation for education has been laid, the building has been modernized and the classrooms wait. The one thing left to do is for students to seize the opportunity to receive a modern day educational in a state of the art facility. 

Yet we all know it’s not the building that creates the unique learning experience, as Mayor Bowser suggested in her remarks. It’s the cooperation and commitment of the students, the faculty, the staff, the community, the stakeholders and partners that make for an outstanding education. So, as the old saying goes “All hands on deck.”    
Go Rough Riders Go!

Related articles:
 - Roosevelt ribbon-cutting, school's open for students (August 22, 2016)
 - A look at a new Roosevelt: a long-overdue renovation (January 30, 2016)