Mar 17, 2022 - News

New D.C. public school would address Wilson High overcrowding

A photograph of students exiting Wilson High School in the background
Photo: Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Woodrow Wilson High School, D.C.'s highly desired and largest public school, has long been bursting at the seams. Mayor Muriel Bowser's new proposed budget would create a high school in the Palisades to alleviate overcrowding.

Driving the news: Bowser proposes $45 million to transform the former campus of private Georgetown Day School on MacArthur Boulevard NW into a 1,000-student public high school.

  • Half of the high school's seats would be open to citywide pupils. The plan is slated for completion by fall 2024.
  • Wilson has a diverse population of about 1,950 students, many of whom live all over the District.
  • The District purchased the site at 4530 MacArthur Blvd. NW last year for $46 million.

What they're saying: Advocates and Ward 3 council member Mary Cheh immediately praised the move.

Ruth Wattenberg, the Ward 3 representative on the State Board of Education, tells Axios that Wilson has been overcrowded for a decade. "There's not enough room to eat if it's rainy, seniors are discouraged from taking a full schedule, the stairwells are crowded,” she said.

Yes, but: Wattenberg and others also see this as an “imperfect solution.”

  • The site is not served by a Metrorail line, making access difficult for students traveling from other neighborhoods. Only one bus line passes through.
  • “They really need to step up the public transportation if they're going to do this,” said Kishan Putta, a neighborhood commissioner in the Burleith neighborhood near Hardy Middle School.

Between the lines: In 2019, a group of parents called for the creation of four new public schools in the ward.

  • A public elementary school planned not far away from the proposed MacArthur high school in Foxhall is the subject of fierce neighborhood debate.
  • The budget includes an additional $22.5 million for a Foxhall elementary school, addressing overcrowding at Stoddert, Key, and Mann elementary schools. But some residents near the site on Hardy Park fear it will shrink recreation space available to the community.

Meanwhile, Bowser's budget also proposes a new middle school in Shaw, a neighborhood that has clamored for a new public school. It would be housed at the former site of Benjamin Banneker High School.

  • A total of $110 million in funds would kick in starting in fiscal 2026, with construction completion anticipated for fall 2028.
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