They may not rate as high as the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial on a list of things to see in the nation’s capital, but the eight little red schoolhouses stationed at the entrances to the Department of Education’s headquarters are attracting tourists’ attention.
The bright red structures were erected last month to protect pedestrians from upcoming masonry work around the Maryland Street, S.W., building. They’ve added color to the generic office building, and tourists seem to like it.
“It’s a real innovative approach to sprucing up the neighborhood,” said department spokesman Daniel Langan, who said he has seen tourists snapping pictures of them.
Originally, the schoolhouses were planned as plain wooden covers. But Secretary of Education Rod Paige wanted something creative. Now they’re painted fire-engine red and trimmed in white. White picket fences, windows, and bell towers complete the look, along with a faux blackboard etched with the Bush administration’s education slogan, “No Child Left Behind.”
Each structure cost an additional $3,623 (over what it would have cost just to do the wooden entry cover), Mr. Langan said. That’s nearly $29,000 extra for all of them.
“It stands out, and it’s also a way to send a message that we have in place a revolutionary new law,” Mr. Langan said.
The schoolhouses caught the eye of tourist Mario Nastasi, visiting from Clinton Township, Mich., last week. “I saw it and thought it was a nice touch,” he said. “It’s a good idea. They need to sell themselves.”
The structures also piqued Dan Perez’s curiosity. Mr. Perez was in town with Columbus, Ohio’s Police & Fire Pipes and Drums band for a performance. “I said, ‘What the heck’s that?’” he said.
Mr. Langan said there has been so much positive reaction to the schoolhouses that “we’d be inclined to keep them up” even when the work is finished.
—Michelle R. Davis
A version of this article appeared in the May 22, 2002 edition of Education Week