D.C. to add middle school, shake up Ward 5 education
By Matt Connolly,
D.C. school officials said this week that they plan to open a new middle school in the Brookland neighborhood, seeking to address community concerns about education options in Ward 5.
Brookland Middle School, officials said, will accommodate 500 students in grades six to eight and offer foreign language and arts integration programs, including student showcases and artists in residence. Officials expect to open the Northeast Washington school in 2013 or 2014.
The plan announced Tuesday also envisions adding a middle school to McKinley Technology High School for the 2013-14 school year, with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. In addition, the Browne Education Campus, which serves preschool through eighth grade, will launch an International Baccalaureate program in 2013.
The plan means major change for Ward 5 schools. Currently, there are seven elementary-middle hybrid schools known as education campuses. Low enrollment at some of those hybrid schools, parents have complained, means fewer resources for quality middle school programming.
Under the new arrangement, all of the PS-8 schools except Browne will become traditional elementary schools.
To develop the plan, officials held a series of community meetings and surveyed parents.
Shanita Burney, director of family and community engagement for the school system, said “a slim majority” of parents indicated they wanted conventional middle schools. But many expressed interest in the plan’s other two models.
Details were announced at an evening meeting in the McKinley Tech auditorium.
●Brookland Middle, officials said, will be on the site of an old Brookland school campus on Michigan Avenue NE. The timetable for its opening will depend on whether a new campus is built there.
●McKinley Middle will have 380 students. Its STEM program will feature student competitions and interaction with professionals across STEM-related fields.
“We really see this as an unbelievable opportunity to bring STEM alive,” Carey Wright, chief academic officer for the school system, said. “The exposure they’re going to get to these professionals, I think, is rather amazing.”
●Browne will offer 300 middle grade seats and continue to serve students from preschool to fifth grade. The IB curriculum will be introduced in the 2013-14 school year, although it takes a minimum of three years for a school to become IB-certified, officials said.
Chy McGhee, 32, lives and teaches in Ward 5 but sends her daughter to Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School. She said after the meeting that she likes the new programs the middle schools will offer but will keep her daughter in the charter school.
“I don’t think the charter teachers are any better, but the community of learning is better,” she said. “When you walk in, it’s warm.”
Other parents expressed concern about which elementary schools will feed into which middle school. Under the plan, the Langdon and Burroughs schools, which have a STEM focus in elementary grades, will send their students to Brookland Middle, which has an arts and language focus. Some parents said the STEM elementary program should connect with the STEM middle school.
Officials said students who want to attend a Ward 5 middle school out of their neighborhood boundary must enter a lottery system. The school system hopes new schools and programs will attract students from all over the city.
“Aggressive recruitment is going to be necessary,” Burney said. “We want to be that school that has waiting lists. That’s a good problem to have.”