Prominent D.C. school gets alumni backlash over nursing home deal

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Alumni at a prestigious Washington, D.C. institution are raising concerns over the school's recent purchase of a nursing facility in an effort to expand their campus.

Sidwell Friends School purchased the 127-year-old Washington Home nursing facility in September, citing plans to consolidate their two campuses into one. The Quaker school is among one of the most elite in Washington, with Chelsea Clinton, scientist Bill Nye and new LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan among its notable alumni. President Obama's daughters currently attend the school. 

Washington Home's residents were not told about the $32.5 million deal until after it was made, a move that garnered criticism from the residents and the Washington community. In a letter sent to Sidwell Friends officials last month, fifteen members of the school's Class of 1978 expressed disappointment over the way the deal was communicated to residents.

“We respectfully disagree with the hands-off — see no harm, hear no harm — approach that we have witnessed so far concerning the relocation process and the people affected,” the letter stated.

The alumni called for school officials to make the transition for residents — who must move out of the facility by the end of 2016 — as seamless and stress-free as possible. In a response, school officials said they “advocated staunchly” for the needs of the facility's residents, but felt they lack the expertise in nursing and hospice care needed to help with transitioning residents.

“They've decided that we don't want to get involved,” Larry Ottinger, one of the alumni who penned the letter, told the Washington Post. “Obviously the primary responsibility is with the Washington Home. But we're alumni of Sidwell, and that's the perspective we're coming from. What can our institution do to uphold our values, which include using our talents in service of others.”

Ottinger said he wishes for Sidwell Friends officials to meet with Washington Home residents to ask how their transition can be made easier, and for the school's extensive alumni network to create a committee that would help residents move into new homes.