News & Politics

What Are DC’s Oldest and Newest Public High Schools?

This fall brings the city’s first new one since 1972.

MacArthur. Photograph by Evy Mages .

Opening this fall, MacArthur is the city’s first new neighborhood high school (meaning students who live within its boundaries have a right to attend) since H.D. Woodson in 1972. A quick look at DC’s newest and oldest public high schools:


Newest: MacArthur

Located on MacArthur Boulevard in Ward 3, the school—whose final name is yet to be determined—is taking over a building once occupied by Georgetown Day School. MacArthur’s first-year enrollment goal is around 250 students, though it hopes to expand to 800, which will help ease overcrowding at Jackson-Reed High School. So what mascot did the city’s smallest high school pick? A mammoth, naturally.


Oldest: Dunbar

This Truxton Circle school opened in the basement of a church in 1870. Then called the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth, it was the first US public high school to serve Black students. Over its 153 years, it has produced a slew of notable alumni, including the first Black Army general, the first Black US Naval Academy graduate, and the first Black member of a presidential cabinet. In 2013, it underwent a $122 million renovation, including new floor panels that honor such influential graduates. Several remain blank, a message to current students that their name could be there one day, too.

This article appears in the September 2023 issue of Washingtonian.

Jessica Ruf
Assistant Editor