Last week DCPS initiated the annual Out of Boundary (“OOB”) lottery for the 2011-12 school year. This is the process by which students who do not wish to attend their designated local school take open places in schools outside their neighborhood. As the name states, it is a lottery process. Applicants have until February 28th to submit their application (there’s no advantage to applying early). The lottery will run on March 2nd, and the results will be published on March 3rd.
What many people do not realize is that to attend any pre-K program, even if it’s your local school, you have to apply to the lottery as well. So regardless of which school you want, if you plan on sending your child to pre-K next year, you need to apply to the lottery.
Here in Georgetown, that pre-K lottery is about to assume a pretty significant role in the ongoing transformation of Hyde-Addison, whereby the school is steadily becoming a primarily Georgetown-serving school.
The Long History
Throughout the twentieth century, schools in Georgetown had problems with underenrollment. This forced the schools to go through several mergers. At one point there was a Addison-Curtis-Hyde School, later there was a Hyde-Jackson school, which itself merged with the Corcoran School. All this was done to prevent the central office from shutting down the schools completely.
As early as 1965, the city started busing students to attend the relatively empty Georgetown schools. By the early 1970s, the non-neighborhood children represented the majority of students in Georgetown schools (by 1972, only Hyde and Fillmore were still open).
That situation has remained pretty much the same for the last forty years.
The Recent History
In the past 5-10 years, the population of in-boundary children attending Hyde has been steadily increasing. This reflects the on-going baby boom in Georgetown. GM checked the census records, and it doesn’t appear that Georgetown children are necessarily choosing public school over private school more than they did in the past. It’s just that there are literally hundreds more children living in Georgetown now than there were just two decades ago. Even if they attend public schools at the same rate as they historically have, that would still result in a big student enrollment jump considering how small Hyde is.
There does, however, seem to be some dispute over the current number of in boundary students at Hyde. Principal Dana Nerenberg told GM she believes it’s at or around 50%; however, DCPS pegs last year’s number at just 32%. (In Nerenberg’s defense, she told GM that Hyde does not keep records of which students are in-boundary and which are out-of-boundary, so it was just a guess on her part).
Whatever the number was last year, it’s indubitably higher this year. Why? Because Hyde got a raft of unexpected new neighborhood students enrolling in kindergarten last fall. So many that the school had to hire an extra teacher to float between the extra large kindergarten classes.
While it appears that the school has been able to successfully handle the population spike, the administration recognizes that changes must be made to prevent over-population.
Traditionally, the time when most out-of-boundary children enroll in Hyde is during the pre-K lottery. Once they get in then, they can stay with Hyde straight through. Historically, only a handful of 5-7 in-boundary students then show up during the kindergarten year. Last year, though, there were 20 neighborhood kids that showed up in August for kindergarten.
So basically, a lot of neighborhood children wait until kindergarten to enroll in Hyde. To keep space available for this expected influx, Hyde next year is cutting one of its two Pre-K classes. Last year it accepted 35 students (24 in boundary and 11 out-of-boundary [but only about 15 of the in-boundary students actually enrolled]). This year, with only one Pre-K class, they are only accepting 19 pre-K students in the lottery.
So if recent numbers hold-up, almost every pre-K slot will go to in boundary students. And further, if the increase in neighborhood children showing up for kindergarten also holds up, there won’t be very many slots for out-of-boundary students then either. There is a distinct possibility, therefore, that in the very near future, Hyde will be almost 100% filled with Georgetown kids.
That would be a event that has not happened in a long, long time. You probably have to go back to before the depression to find a time when Georgetown kids used up all the spaces in Georgetown schools (although there were a lot more spaces back then).
GM has had conversations with parents that are worried that even with 100% of the slots being taken by Georgetown students, it still won’t be enough space. One has even suggested to him that the city ought to consider looking for additional space. The space that immediately would come to mind, of course, is the one other school building in Georgetown still owned by DCPS: the Jackson School.
But while GM loves the renewed interest in Hyde, he just doesn’t think we’ll ever get to that point (and besides, he doesn’t want to see the artists kicked out). But that we were even having a discussion about reopening a school that was closed in 1971 due to a dearth in local students is frankly pretty remarkable.
Of course, time will tell. Perhaps this is just a blip caused by the recession. But GM believes there are firm demographic reasons underlying this change, namely there are more young families in Georgetown than there used to be. And that’s unlikely to change once the economy picks up.