DC to Review Public School Boundaries

The city plans to redraw the maps that determine where kids go to school.

By: Benjamin Freed

The DC government yesterday started a long-overdue review of public school boundaries that is all but guaranteed to stir controversy among parents who choose homes based on what schools their kids could be sent to.

For the first time in more than 30 years, the District is reconsidering its school boundaries and feeder patterns, the geographic lines that determine which students attend specific schools. Population centers have shifted, public schools have closed and opened, and a network of charters schools has sprouted up since the last time DC redrew its education map. But already, news of the review committee’s mere existence is sending many parents into a tizzy.

On the online forum DC Urban Moms and Dads, some parents in Crestwood, a leafy enclave of upper Northwest on the eastern side of Rock Creek Park, are worried their kids will be cut out from attending Wilson High School in Tenleytown or the middle schools such as Deal or Oyster-Adams that feed into it. “I won’t buy in the Shepherd Park, or Crestwood neighborhoods right now,” one parent writes.

Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith, who is leading the boundary review committee, says there will be “grandfathering provisions” to soften the impact on families when the boundary changes take effect in the 2015-16 school year. But that, too, is being met with skepticism, especially from parents who depend on lotteries to get their children into schools that are in different parts of the city.

"They want to make sure out-of-bounds kids think they will be grandfathered in while actually leaving open the option to boot them," another DC Urban Moms user writes.

 The 20-person committee will release its first recommendations in May 2014, a month after the Democratic mayoral primary. The scheduling muffles the potential political impact on Mayor Vince Gray if he decides to run for a second term.