A couple weeks ago, the Georgetown Current reported a spike in the size of this year’s kindergarten class at the Hyde-Addison Elementary school here in Georgetown. According to the Current, Hyde’s kindergarten class is 58, up from 40 last year.
To address this influx, the school is hiring a third teacher’s assistant to help out the two kindergarten classes. Nonetheless, as you dig into the numbers a bit, you can see that this is not likely a temporary blip. Interest in Hyde from the neighborhood has been on a sharp upward trajectory for years now and is likely to continue.
This year, though, was a particular surprise. Typically Hyde sees about 6-7 new neighborhood children join the kindergarten class each summer. These children join a larger group of children who join Hyde for Pre-K (which includes both neighborhood children and so-called “out-of-boundary” children from neighborhoods outside of Georgetown). This year rather than 6-7 new neighborhood children entering Hyde, there were 20.
That’s a huge jump that may not be matched again soon, but the trend in neighborhood interest in Hyde is definitely upward. GM endeavored to get a complete set of numbers reflecting the change in Hyde’s student population over the last five years or so, but was unable to obtain them. Nonetheless, when several incomplete data sources are considered, the trend is clear.
For instance, in 2006-2007 there were 170 children in Hyde. Of those, 64 were neighborhood children and 106 were out-of-boundary. In 2008-2009, there were 194 children (the jump in total enrollment reflects the fact that this was the year that renovations to the Addison School building were finished and the building was added to the campus) of those, 76 were neighborhood and 118 were out-of-boundary. That’s a nine percent increase per year in neighborhood enrollment.
Consistent with those numbers, Principal Dana Nerenberg believes that when she started as principal five years ago, the school was approximately 30% neighborhood children. Now she believes it’s 50% (and is probably even higher with the kindergarten influx).
Total numbers, however, are lagging indicators. The younger classes have an even higher percentage of local children. For instance, in the lottery for last year’s pre-K class (all children must enter the lotto for pre-K, regardless of where you live) neighborhood children represented 60% of the winners. This year they represented over 68%. The over all percentage of local children will keep inching up as these children move up through the grades (particularly if the local children stay through fifth grade, as has been increasingly so).
What’s the cause for this increase in numbers? Is it just the economy and the need to avoid a costly private school bill? Partially, says Hyde parent Marnie Kenney “while it may be the economy that is driving families to more seriously consider public schools, once families give Hyde-Addison a look, I think they are finding a neighborhood jewel where students feel safe and supported in a learning environment.”
The luxury of proximity may also be driving Georgetowners to take a closer look at Hyde. Anna Fuhrman’s daughter is one of those 20 new children in kindergarten: “For those of us who live in the neighborhood, walking to school and avoiding trudging across town to a private school — and paying for said trudge & school — is a very nice bonus. The proximity was really the first draw for my family. But many families who love Hyde are coming from much greater distances, and the strong draw of all of the other great attributes seem to more than balance the traffic headaches.”
Another draw that is emphasized by the school and the parents alike is the student diversity. Kenney adds, “with that, the opportunity to interact with a mix of both local and international peers from a variety of ethnic, religious, and economic backgrounds is present in everything that Hyde-Addison does.”
Ironically, that diversity could eventually become a victim of the school’s success. As more and more neighborhood children choose to enroll at Hyde, fewer slots will be open for out-of-boundary children. Nonetheless, in the foreseeable future there probably won’t be enough neighborhood children to fill-up the school and thus there should remain a decent amount of out-of-boundary slots. Moreover, since many of the neighborhood children are children of employees of nearby embassies (the biggest groups being French, Ukrainian, and Mongolian) the student body will likely continue to be very diverse even if from a strictly demographic perspective it becomes “whiter”.
This increase in neighborhood interest is a historic reversal. Since the middle part of the 20th century, as the result of a decline in the number of Georgetown families, Hyde has periodically struggled against under-enrollment and the threat of closure. Through a scrappy determination and creative partnerships, Hyde survived. And now, Georgetown families are returning in droves and a new chapter in the school’s history will be written.