Edmund Burke School in the center of the Van Ness shooting

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When Laura Manatos first toured Edmund Burke School, she knew right away it was right for her daughter. Other preparatory schools in the DC area seemed too demanding and competitive, but she felt that Burke valued every single student because she wanted to understand how students view the world.

She enrolled in her 10th grade, Sienna, at the beginning of the academic year – and the teenager has loved it.

Last week, Burke – a private school of 220 middle and high school students located on the bustling Connecticut Avenue corridor in the nation’s capital – was put in the national spotlight after an armed man sprayed more than 200 bullets out of an apartment building and shattered glass. , which connects the campus’ buildings. No one was killed, but a child and three adults, including the school security guard, were injured. Two of the victims remained hospitalized in critical condition Monday.

DC Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said the suspected shooter, 23-year-old Raymond Spencer, had his view on Burke, but police have not established a motive or connection between the suspect and the school.

“School was definitely in his crosshairs,” Contee said.

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Founded in 1968, Burke calls itself a “progressive, college prep school” that offers an “inclusive environment” for students in grades 6 to 12. At each grade level, Burke students undergo a year-long “integrated community life,” equality, and management curriculum, based on social justice education. ” The school was founded at the height of the civil rights era, and its founders wanted an education that would give students a sense of civic responsibility. They named the school after Edmund Burke, a British philosopher and politician who supported the American Revolution and was against slavery.

The school, which costs about $ 45,000 a year to attend, says it devotes 15 percent of its annual budget to financial aid. Burke uses a needs-blind and needs-based admissions process – applicants’ financial status is not considered in the application process, and grants are distributed based on need-not-merit needs – and more than a third of its students receive financial aid.

Its four-story building front on Connecticut Avenue in the Van Ness neighborhood is wrapped with large windows and connects to the high school through the elevated glass-encapsulated bridge named after Albert Einstein.

“It’s progressive mind, it cares a lot about social justice and belonging for adults and students and making this world a better place,” said Jennifer Danish, a former member of the Burke Board of Trustees whose two children graduated from school. . “It is extraordinary; it is a very special place. “

Burke is the type of school, parents said, where students call their teachers by their first names, an attempt to create close relationships between students and staff. Typically, students choose which social purposes the school will support. Guests for school evenings can buy books for incarcerated parents so they can read to their children.

In her first year at school, 16-year-old Sienna has become more confident and more confident in speaking for herself and others, able to navigate sensitive conversations about politics, sexuality and race.

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“It’s full of creative thinkers, children of social justice,” said Manatos, her mother, who lives in Bethesda. “There’s more of an eccentric feeling there, a come-as-you-are feeling.”

The school is a block away from the Van Ness Metro train station, and students travel by subway to take excursions in the mall and participate in protests downtown. Many participated in the 2018 student-led March for Our Lives protest, which called on Congress to pass stricter gun control laws to end the nation’s more than two-decade-long campus shootings.

Although violent crime is less common in this part of northwestern Washington with higher incomes than other neighborhoods, Burke is merely the district’s most recent school community, shaken by gun violence. Earlier this month, a rookie from Roosevelt High, Malachi Jackson, was shot dead near Columbia Heights subway station. In 2019, bullets punctured the lobby windows of Hendley Elementary in southeast Washington while students sat inside the hallway waiting for a movie night to begin.

The city’s schools are often put on short blockade due to daily shots in neighborhoods, though this is the first shooting in recent memory that appears to be aimed at a school.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sousa Middle in southeast Washington was put under blockade for 25 minutes, police said when several shots were reported nearby. A spokeswoman said no one was injured but at least one vehicle was hit.

“The huge problem that this footage highlights has been on our minds for a long time,” said Danish. “Burke should not be special, it happens all the time all over the country, but it is devastating to the feeling of security and joy at school.”

Everyday life in Burke rested on that sense of security. Every day, senior students walk around Connecticut Avenue eating out for lunch throughout the day. While the school’s athletic facilities are under construction, students go to their sports classes at a nearby Gold’s Gym.

An important part of its identity is that it is close to a subway, said Amy McNamer, executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington, which supports 76 private schools in the region. “People can travel to it from all over the city.”

The Burke school has not yet resumed teaching since the shooting. But parents and students have gathered on their own and supported each other as they navigate the tragedy.

So many parents have approached the staff that it sent a note to families in which they said the staff was overwhelmed by the offers of support and to stop sending them. Instead, they led the parents to a centralized website where they could list their ideas on how they could help the school. Parents could post articles on how to deal with the tragedy or start a meal train for a family that was particularly affected.

On Monday, Laura Manatos and her daughter met in a park with other parents and students to talk about what happened, a necessary and therapeutic gathering, she said.

Sienna, who was on the glass bridge when the bullets pierced the building, said she is excited to return to campus. Since the shooting, Burke’s staff have been texting and checking in to make sure she’s okay.

“The amount of comfort and security I feel at school gives me great hope of getting back into school,” Sienna said. “And be able to cross that bridge.”

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