School Zoning Changes Could Affect Georgetown

ANC Preview: Hyde Gym Edition

Yesterday GM reported on the continued interest Georgetown families are showing in Hyde-Addison elementary school. But on Saturday, the Deputy Mayor of Education, Abigail Smith, announced preliminary proposals that could radically impact where Georgetowners are able to send their children.Today, GM will discuss the project’s background and the proposed changes to boundary map that may impact Georgetown.

Background

The District has kept the same school boundary map for decades, despite the significant population changes that directly affect how many children are enrolled in public school and where. To address this, the mayor created a task force to analyze school boundaries, as well as the whole system of how children are assigned schools. This committee has worked for months and months, and now is floating some preliminary proposals.

Boundaries

The first recommendation from the committee relates to the traditional rezoning battleground: boundary maps. The committee recognized the need for updated maps, although there’s just about nothing more controversial than telling a resident that they’re no longer in the great school zone they were yesterday. Probably reflecting this controversy, the recommended map changes are mostly limited.

And the changes wouldn’t directly impact Georgetown. No Georgetown families are being “zoned out” of Hyde. In fact, the proposal calls for the Hyde boundary to extend to capture Burleith and Foxhall Village. This small change is nonetheless controversial because it would move families out of the Stoddert and Key zones. These are both highly sought after¬†schools. While GM personally thinks that Hyde is just as good, being zoned out of such successful schools is bound to cause anxiety. Not to mention the fact that for some the trip to school will be longer.

Part of the reason for the rezoning is connected with a thread that weaves through some of the larger changes: making space in highly sought after schools for children from poorly performing schools. As GM will describe more tomorrow, the proposals call for set asides at all schools of 10% seats for children from “poorly performing schools” (that term isn’t defined yet). Since the seats at many of the highly sought after schools, like Key and Stoddert, are taken almost entirely by neighborhood kids, the only way to make room for the out-of-boundary kids is to reduce the size of the boundary until fewer neighborhood kids are attending. (Well, there’s at least one more option, but it means overcrowding.)

Hyde, on the other hand, is about 50% in-boundary. So it can take the in boundary kids from Stoddert and Key and still meet the set aside requirement.

Much of the public focus is on the more radical changes that GM will discuss tomorrow. Reaction to the map changes has been a bit more muted. There’s a wide acknowledgement that changing the maps every several decades is fair game. And arguments along the lines of “I paid XXX dollars for my house to be in this zone” aren’t terribly persuasive. To those who can’t afford XXX dollars, these complaints are more likely to produce schadenfreude¬†than sympathy. As for those who can afford XXX dollars, but are lucky to remain in a good zone, they’re happy enough to dodge a bullet and don’t want to rock the boat in such a way that moves them out too.

So regardless of whether the more radical changes go through, GM predicts that at least part of the larger Hyde zone will remain.

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