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Garrison gets its field, church to stop parking

(Published October 4, 1999)

The rancorous battle over Garrison Elementary School’s play area appears to have come to an end, with the student plaintiffs deciding Sept. 29 to drop their lawsuit against the school system after the pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church vowed his congregation would stop parking on the field permanently.

After the plaintiffs won a temporary restraining order against the school system Sept. 16, the Rev. Beecher Hicks said in his sermon Sept. 19 that he would end the church’s decades-old practice of parking on the field, under contract with the school system. The church’s lawyer repeated the promise at a Sept. 24 court hearing on the matter.

D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman issued a survey to Garrison students and parents asking for input on how they wanted the field used. According to her office, the top two choices were for a baseball field and a blacktop area marked for games like hopscotch. Ackerman has asked the school’s facilities staff to begin work on plans to renovate the field so children can use it beginning next spring.

The conflict began when local contractor David Hudgens offered to re-grade and re-seed the field free of charge but only if the church members stopped parking on it, a practice neighbors say has rendered the field useless over the years. Hudgens has also donated $260,000 worth of playground equipment to the school.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator