Jan 11, 2023 - News

D.C.'s new MacArthur school takes shape

How students will get to MacArthur is an open question. Photo courtesy of DCPS

The city is getting its first new public high school in decades. It’s opening this fall at the former Georgetown Day School on MacArthur Boulevard.

What’s happening: MacArthur High School is expected to eventually enroll 800 students, starting with 200 ninth graders and 50 tenth graders during the 2023-24 school year.

Why it matters: Upper NW needs at least four new public schools to reduce overcrowding at Jackson-Reed High School. But there’s substantial NIMBY opposition in the Palisades neighborhood because of how much traffic MacArthur may bring.

Details: Hardy Middle School will feed into MacArthur, and Alice Deal middle-schoolers will have the option to attend. Current ninth graders at Jackson-Reed will be able to apply to transfer to MacArthur for the 2023-2024 school year.

  • Students from other parts of the city will be able to apply for out-of-boundary spots through DCPS’ public school lottery. There are also seats set aside for students from vulnerable populations.
  • DCPS officials tell Axios they don’t know how many out-of-boundary students are expected to attend and that it depends on the number of neighborhood students who enroll.

Of note: Hardy students will no longer have in-boundary rights at Jackson-Reed.

Between the lines: How kids will get to MacArthur and the impact on the neighborhood is an open question.

DCPS says it won’t offer transportation to the school and the District hasn’t come up with transportation options for out-of-boundary students. Meanwhile, the nearest Metro stop, Tenleytown, is more than two miles away.

What they’re saying: Community leaders want MacArthur’s enrollment to be lower so that seats can be used for students already at Hardy.

  • Cathy Reilly, coordinator for a group of families and community leaders, says DCPS should keep MacArthur at around 700 students and invest in improving schools in other parts of the city to address Jackson-Reed's overcrowding.

New Ward 3 council member Matt Frumin echoes these concerns, saying enrollment shouldn’t overwhelm traffic in the neighborhood or rely on out-of-boundary students too much.

  • “Drawing children from other parts of the city to a school on the very edge of the city, and which would not work to strengthen the schools in the neighborhoods where those children are coming from, doesn't strike me as a good strategy,” he tells Axios.

What’s next: A virtual open house will be held on Jan. 14 and DCPS is offering several opportunities this month to meet the school’s new principal, Harold McCray. The school lottery opens for applications on Feb. 1.

Editor’s note: This story was corrected to reflect that Alice Deal Middle School will not feed into MacArthur High School, though its students may enroll there.


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