DCPS boundary re-drawing process begins

Clara Doyle, Contributor

DCPS announced they will be redrawing boundaries that will determine the feeder pattern for students. The Redrawing Committee met for the first time on March 30 where members discussed their hopes for the process.

“This process will be essential toward our ongoing work to not only recover from the pandemic, but to continue our efforts to close the opportunity gap,” Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn said in a recent press release. 

He outlined three main goals for DCPS during this process: clear school assignments based on their boundary feeder patterns, avoiding overcrowding of schools, and equitable access to high-quality schools. Kihn hopes that the process will provide “strategic, data-informed recommendations to ensure more students have access to great schools and facilities that meet their needs.” 

By law, of the 116 DCPS facilities, 98 are considered “by-right” and 18 are citywide. 72 percent of students use the common lottery each year to ensure entry to a DCPS school outside their boundary. Just 28 percent of students attend their “by-right” school. 

Cathy Reily, a member of the committee, was part of the redrawing process the last time it took place. She noted that one major difference between the two processes is that last time there were no members of DCPS or charter schools on the committee. This year, Reily said that there are three members of DCPS and several people representing the interests of charter schools. The boundaries have no impact on charter schools.

“[Stakeholders] need to have a school that [they] can easily access that is in [their] neighborhood/zone that meets [their] needs,” said Anna Johnson, the Ward 3 representative on the committee. 

Johnson also noted that many other people on the committee shared that sentiment in their first meeting. She added that one member of the committee said that she had to drive her kid to a school an hour away just to receive the special care needed. 

Both Johnson and Reily both stressed that a lot of the process is still up in the air. Johnson and Reily will know more regarding the needs of their community after their second meeting in May, when they will hear from community members about their concerns for the first time. 

The committee’s recommendation is due in February. It was originally due in December, but DCPS recently pushed it back. Until then, they will have monthly meetings and two town halls. 

Phil Mendelson is chair of the DC Council’s Committee of the Whole, which oversees public education. DC Council voted to use the 2023 Budget Support Act to mandate a DCPS boundary study. 

The final recommendations are scheduled to be submitted by winter 2023-24. The advisory committee will prompt recommendations, which the city will adopt, modify, or reject before they are to take effect for the 2025-2026 school year.