by Marlene Berlin
Tonight (Wednesday, May 3rd) at 7 p.m., the Ward 3-Wilson Feeder Education Network (W3EdNet) and Wilson High School are co-hosting a community meeting on overcrowding of Ward 3 schools at the Wilson Auditorium. The DC Office of Planning will be part of this discussion. This meeting will be a great start as well as a complement to the community working group on overcrowding, which is studying the issue from the spring into fall.
To prepare for this meeting, the 21st Century School Fund has been digging into DC enrollment data to provide information about the current state Ward 3 public schools and what the future may hold. This is what they have to report.
Where we are now
The first table shows the current enrollment at elementary and middle schools which feed into Wilson High School. Most of the schools are near or at capacity.
Note that the Murch figures show the capacity for a renovated school which won’t be completed until fall 2018. The Eaton figures, on the other hand, are all too accurate, as this school is enrolled at 124% of capacity.
Under DCPS policy, once a child is accepted into an elementary school or middle school, that child has the right to continue in that feeder school pattern. In times of falling public school enrollment, parents have been able to take advantage of a high level of choice. The percentage of in-boundary students in Ward 3 feeder schools ranges from a low of around 20% in two of our middle schools, Hardy and Adams, and around 35% to a high above 80% in our elementary schools.
With in-boundary enrollment climbing at elementary schools in particular, these schools are under more pressure to turn away out-of-boundary students. This issue is sure to arise at this meeting and other discussions.
Will a bumper crop of 4-10 year olds in 2020 and 2025 push Ward 3 schools beyond their limits?
The 21st Century School Fund looked at population projections for neighborhood clusters within Ward 3 and also adjacent clusters that feed into our middle schools and Wilson High School.
If you use the current enrollment in Ward 3 schools and the population growth projections from Table 3 to estimate enrollment in 2025, the ward’s elementary schools could be over capacity by 719 students, Deal Middle School by 312 students, and Wilson High School by 396 students. The overcrowding could worsen beyond 2025 at Deal and Wilson, if there’s a large jump in enrollment at Ward 3 elementary schools.
Hopefully, the discussions starting with tonight’s meeting will lead to some good solutions.