D.C. begins to redraw school boundaries

October 31, 2013

The long-awaited, or perhaps long-dreaded, DCPS boundary-drawing process has begun. While it’s bound to be painful for some, it’s also long overdue.

On Monday, a 20-member task force finally kicked off the review of D.C. school feeder patterns and boundaries that was originally supposed to have been finished by June 2013. The task force, led by the office of the deputy mayor for education, is scheduled to recommend changes by May. Then, after an opportunity for public comment (which will undoubtedly be utilized to the hilt), the recommendations will be finalized in September. A year later, for school year 2015-16, they’ll finally take effect.

In addition to boundaries, the task force may also consider whether at least some charter schools should give a preference to neighborhood residents and think about having feeder patterns that cross charter/DCPS lines. These are developments that would help create some much-needed coherence between the charter and traditional public school systems.

Although Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith says the timing has nothing to do with politics, it’s hard not to notice that the mayoral primary will be safely over by the time any recommendations emerge.

The big issue is boundaries and feeder patterns for middle and especially high schools. Parents currently zoned for Deal Middle School and Wilson High School—the most desirable, and most crowded, DCPS secondary schools—may be feeling nervous as they contemplate being relegated to schools with much lower performance records.

But this is the first time boundaries have been reconsidered since the 1970s, and obviously, much has changed. Schools in Ward 3, like Deal and Wilson, that were under-enrolled then are now bursting at the seams. It no longer makes sense to have the Wilson catchment area swallowing what appears to be nearly half the District. Other high schools, like the newly reconstructed Dunbar, are half empty.

Generally speaking, the high school boundaries (as I once heard a principal observe) look as though they were drawn by a child with a crayon.

[Continue reading Natalie Wexler's post at Greater Greater Education.]

Natalie Wexler is the editor of Greater Greater Education. She is a member of the boards of D.C. Scholars Public Charter School and the nonprofit One World Education. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

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