Will redistricting undermine a two-year-effort to improve public schools in Ward 6? That’s the concern expressed by some parents in the Capitol Hill community. As plans stand, a chunk of eastern Ward 6 will be absorbed by Ward 7, which needs to expand due to population loss reflected in the 2010 census. The configuration would put Eastern High School and Eliot-Hine Middle School on the other side of the new boundary. The schools are the linchpin of an effort by Hill parents to create a viable K-12 public education path in their community. Working with Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and her successor, Kaya Henderson, they have made strides in revitalizing elementary schools such as Brent, Watkins and Tyler. They’ve now turned their energy to the middle schools. Both Jefferson and Eliot-Hine are pursuing authorization for an International Baccalaureate Middle Years program, with Jefferson set to open a separate sixth grade “academy” this fall. They will feed into a rebuilt and reinvented Eastern.
But Ward 6 parents are concerned that with the feeder elementary schools in one ward and the middle and high school destinations in another, change will become more complicated.
“When you deal with multiple council members it becomes more problematic,” said Joe Weedon, a parent at Maury Elementary, and one of the activists working with Eliot-Hine. He said parents don’t want to “lose the cohesiveness and potentially the political will to make reforms.” Put another way, they worry that their clout will be diluted by placing the schools in the ward of a council member (Yvette Alexander) whose political base will remain east of the river. A spokeswoman for Alexander said she is traveling until Wednesday and not available to comment. Wells did not return a phone message left Monday afternoon Redistricting moves into its next phase Thursday afternoon, when a D.C. Council subcommittee is scheduled to vote on a proposed new map.
Residents have organized a “Rally to Keep Capitol Hill Together” for 5:45 p.m. today at Lincoln Park (13th and East Capitol Sts. SE).