By Elaine Melmed
There are few things in life that produce more anxiety than the need to set boundaries in our personal lives, in the lives and behavior of our children and in those countries, states and local jurisdictions struggling, sometimes violently, to achieve agreement and compromise in this endeavor.
Now, boundary setting is on the agenda in the D.C. Public Schools. It is of particular concern for Forest Hills parents, children, teachers, principals and citizens.
Ward 3 public schools are severely overcrowded with student enrollment at Murch Elementary, Deal Middle School and Wilson High School well beyond the optimum or planned capacity for their buildings.
For the 2011-2012 school year, Murch enrolled 556 students, Deal, 1015, and Wilson, 1633. Murch was built to accommodate 480 students. Deal, 980, and Wilson, 1550. Currently, the feeder schools to Deal are Bancroft, Eaton, Janney, Lafayette, Murch and Shepherd, and all students (even the out-of-boundary students attending these schools) are eligible to attend Deal and then Wilson.
This year the figures for in-boundary/out of boundary students are:
The Wilson High School situation is very complicated as it receives students from junior, middle and 8th grades from over one-third of the city. Many of these feeder schools have large numbers of out-of-boundary students themselves who may reside in far Northeast, Southwest and Anacostia. All of these students are therefore entitled to attend Wilson High because their junior high school is considered a legitimate feeder to Wilson Sr. High School
At issue is the fact that while Ward 3 schools, including Murch, Deal and Wilson, are overcrowded, schools in other parts of the city are operating with enrollments so minimal that they are facing closure. There is some agreement that if serious overcrowding is to be checked, out-of-boundary student enrollment must be rethought.
Perhaps responding to the concerns of parents, administrators, throughout the city, Mary Cheh, Ward 3’s City Council Representative, has introduced legislation that would review and reassess all school boundaries. She has pointed out that the school boundaries in D.C. have not been reviewed for many years. It was so long ago that no one can say for certain when it last happened.
Much has to be considered as the boundary issues emerge. What about school diversity, equality of resources and curriculum offerings and how to determine which students might continue to have out-of-boundary slots? How many out-of-boundary students are needed to assure that Murch, Deal and Wilson do not become underutilized schools.
The many concerns of principals, teachers, students, parents and community members will emerge over the next few months and during the 2012-13 school year.
I will report on projected plans to alleviate the problems of overcrowding, establishing new school boundaries and the Mayor’s, City Council’s and the school system’s efforts to solve the problems resulting from over and under-utilization of DC Public Schools.