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DC School Boundaries Are Changing

DC school boundaries are a hot topic of debate. In fact, the chancellor of DC public schools, Kaya Henderson, says that the boundary issue is “the thing that, I think, I fear most.”

The boundaries define which children go to which public school. So children who live within the boundary for a particular school have the right to attend that school. If there are any openings after all the in-boundary children select a school, then others have the opportunity to apply. 

The existing DC public school boundaries and feeder patterns have been in existence since the 1970s. But the city of today is quite different than it was even 10 years ago, let alone 40!

As a whole, DC public schools have not been known for stellar academics, prompting many parents to select private or charter schools. But according to Henderson, in the 2009-2010 school year, the school system saw an increase in enrollment for the first time in almost 40 years. Currently, the DC public schools and charter schools serve about 80,000 students.

The boundary discussion plan suggested by Councilmember Mary Cheh is to convene a task force with multiple stakeholders. This group would represent various interests across the city and develop a set of recommendations.

The DC school boundary debate is likely to heat up in places like Ward 3, the most affluent ward in the city. Ward 3 is home to Wilson High School and Deal Junior High School. Those schools currently serve a diverse mix of students who live in various parts of the city, not just Ward 3, because many Ward 3 parents opted out of public schools. But that is changing as more Ward 3 kids elect to attend middle and high school in their neighborhood. Some parents fear that a boundary change will eliminate the diversity of the schools they sought when moving to the city.

DC school boundary discussions will take place this month through June, after the school closings are finalized. Henderson expects to have final recommendations by the end of the school year. Look for the implementation in the 2014-2015 school year for DC school boundaries.

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