New High School Plan Moves Forward

Yesterday, Mayor Muriel Bowser submitted her draft budget for 2023. In it was funding to move ahead with the proposal to build a new high school in Ward Three. If the project comes to fruition, it will be the in boundary high school for Georgetown students.

The location for the proposal is the former Georgetown Day School lower school on MacArthur Blvd, just west of Foxhall Rd. The private school consolidated its campuses together on Wisconsin Ave. in Tenleytown, so it put the MacArthur Blvd. property on the market. In 2020 the city stepped forward to buy it. Since then various proposals have floated for how to actually use the property. Last year, for instance, the idea of using it as a middle school while converting Hardy to a new high school was discussed.

With the budget announcement yesterday, Bowser stated that the property would in fact be used as a new high school. Hardy Middle school (which Georgetown’s Hyde-Addison feeds to) would feed into the new high school. It is anticipated that the school would have approximately 1,000 students, with some number of seats set aside for out-of-boundary students.

You might be wondering why the city is building a new high school in a wealthy part of the city. The logic is this: Wilson High School is largely considered the best traditional (i.e. non-magnet or charter school) public high school in the city. Despite being technically a local high school, in the past it has drawn large numbers of students from across the city via the out-of-boundary system. But as more and more students actually within the boundary have decided to attend Wilson, it has become over-crowded. Rather than further limit the opportunity of out-of-boundary students to attend this sought after school, the city is proposing this new high school to basically draw away roughly half the Wilson in boundary population.

This is not without controversy. Education advocates argue that focusing so much attention on Ward 3 schools undermines progress of the high schools in the eastern half of the city. Moreover, this new school would be almost impossible to access via public transportation for any student coming from afar. This will put a damper on the number of out-of-boundary students that can realistically choose to attend this school.

But that criticism does not appear likely to sway the decision. And a new high school for Georgetown students appears likely.

But what to call it? GM favors restoring the Western High School name, which was the name of the high school that once occupied the current Duke Ellington School before low population forced it to close in 1977.

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