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Mayor Vince Gray officially adopted a set of changes to the system that determines which public schools D.C. students attend, ending a nearly yearlong process of city proposals on the overhaul, but not the charged public reaction that is sure to continue.
The changes to the school boundaries and feeder patterns were released today by Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith. It’s largely the same as the proposal Smith unveiled in June, with a few boundary changes. And while it puts aside some of the more radical ideas Smith proposed in April, the shift in boundaries is sure to upset parents who will no longer be able to send their children to the schools they’d anticipated.
Rather than the existing complicated patchwork of feeder patterns that left many students with multiple school options and some schools overcrowded, the new rules will give each student one elementary, middle, and high school that she or he can attend as a matter of right. For the majority of students, this will mean no change, but for some, including 37 percent of high schoolers and 49 percent of middle schoolers, there will be either a new in-boundary school or the loss of a choice between multiple schools. Some well-regarded but overenrolled schools in the western part of the city, like Woodrow Wilson High School and Alice Deal Middle School, will be cut off to some students who can currently attend. That’s likely to provoke a backlash from affected families.
The new rules will provide a long-anticipated update to a school-attendance system that’s been in place for more than 40 years. The changes will take effect in the 2015-2016 school year, but students already attending schools will be allowed to stay there.
“The reason District leaders have put-off this project for a generation is the work is complex, inevitably controversial, and there is no way to avoid difficult choices,” Gray said in a statement. “While change like this is never easy, it is in the best interest of the District—-and especially our children—-to move forward with the Committee’s recommended policies and boundaries.”
The new set of boundaries for middle and high schools is above; the elementary-school lines are below.
Maps from the deputy mayor’s proposal