In the period of just one week, the idea to relocate the Duke Ellington School for the Arts was floated, vilified, and conditionally retracted. As it stands now, it appears the DCPS would like to eventually move the school into better facilities but only once the suitable location can be found and the funds secured.
A secondary goal of relocating the Ellington School would be the re-creation of Western High School, which occupied the Ellington School building from its construction in 1897 until 1977. Ever since then, there has been no neighborhood high school in Ward 2. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans has long advocated bringing such a neighborhood high school back to Ward 2.
But who would go to Western High School if it were re-created? Before answering that, it’s important to realize quite how large Ward 2 is:
Ward 2 travels from Burleith and Georgetown all the way through Foggy Bottom, downtown (including our fellow Ward 2 residents at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.), Shaw and even encompassing large parts of Southwest DC (although few if any people live in the Ward 2 parts of Southwest).
So when Jack Evans talks about building a Ward 2 high school, would it service kids from across the entire Ward?
There are two middle schools actually located in Ward 2: Hardy in Georgetown and Francis-Stevens in the West End. Ward 2 children also attend three other middle schools not actually in Ward 2: those in Shaw attend Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson above U St. in Ward1. Children in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood attend Walker-Jones just over the boarder in Ward 5. And children in the Penn Quarter and Southwest attend Jefferson school in Ward 6.
If Ellington were reverted to Western High School, it wouldn’t be able to draw its students from all of the Ward 2; it simply isn’t large enough. It currently holds just under 500 students. Hardy and Francis-Stevens alone combine for about 180 8th graders, which means they could easily fill a new Western High School.
So while restoring Western High School may be described as bringing a local high school back to Ward 2, it’s probably more accurate to say that it would be bringing a local high school back to western Ward 2. Moreover, given the fact that Hardy draws kids from mostly Ward 3 schools, if Western High School becomes a popular choice, it will end up serving mostly Ward 3 students.
Will that be politically feasible? GM can’t say. The fact is that for the near term, like Hardy, a new Western High School would probably be mostly populated by out-of-boundary students.
It’s way to early to speculate much more than that since Ellington is staying where it is for the foreseeable future. And in GM’s opinion it should not be moved unless a better option can be found or created after long and substantive consultation with Ellington parents, staff, and management.