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Mount Pleasant Fights For Its Schools

by Lark Turner

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A home in Mount Pleasant

The parents living in one of DC’s hottest housing markets are eyeing an ongoing redistricting process for DC public schools with concern and apprehension.

Mount Pleasant is at the eastern edge of the zone that feeds into Deal Middle School and Woodrow Wilson High School, two of the top secondary schools in DC (the city’s best-performing public high school, Benjamin Banneker, is a magnet school and uses an application system for admission). But both Deal and Wilson are overcrowded, and the community is worried that a revised school boundary would cut Mount Pleasant residents out.

As a result, a group of neighbors have joined together to petition the city to keep their kids in those schools. The new school boundaries are scheduled to be finalized by September of this year, but wouldn’t take effect until the 2015-2016 school year, according to Deputy Mayor of Education Abigail Smith’s office.

However, new boundaries for Mount Pleasant — or anywhere else, for that matter — have not been decided yet.

“We can’t say whether or not the boundaries will change or not, because those decisions have not been made,” Tara Lynch, who works for Smith, told UrbanTurf.

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Woodrow Wilson High School.

The redistricting process is a big issue not just in Mount Pleasant, but throughout the city, and the state of the city’s schools has taken center stage in the upcoming mayoral election. UrbanTurf is looking at the issue in Mount Pleasant because the area’s proximity to downtown and access to quality public schools are a big part of why the neighborhood has become such a hot real estate market over the past few years. It’s why the petition’s organizer, Josh Louria, moved to the neighborhood with his wife in 2011. The couple don’t have kids — they’re expecting their first in a week — but they bought their house with the schools in mind.

“Mount Pleasant really ticked all the boxes for us,” Louria told UrbanTurf on Thursday. “It has this magical combination of things that have made families realize, ‘Oh, we can really settle down in this neighborhood.’ One of the main reasons we moved into this neighborhood was for access to these schools. When we heard about the redistricting, we kind of felt that the city was changing the rules from under our feet.”

Most of the other schools the neighborhood would be zoned into, Louria said, “have a long way to go,” and suggested the city continue to improve them before changing the shape of school districts.

Louria said he doesn’t blame DC for moving forward with the process given the overcrowding, and complimented Smith on her communication with the neighborhood, where his petition has already racked up more than 125 signatures. But he said if Mount Pleasant is rezoned and the schools don’t improve, he’ll likely move, as will a number of his neighbors who have children.

“Most of our friends will probably leave DC anyway because of the schools,” he said. “We’d really like not to. We’d like to stay in Mount Pleasant. I think we would stay and keep trying as long as it worked. When it didn’t work anymore, I would move.”

See other articles related to: wilson, schools, mount pleasant

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/mt._pleasant_neighbors_fear_losing_wilson_in_redistricting_process/8236

15 Comments

  1. DCDave said at 10:59 am on Friday March 14, 2014:

    This misses the white elephant about all issues in DC: race. Deal and Wilson are in the rich, white part of town. Bancroft elementary in Mount Pleasant is overwhelmingly latino. So if MtP is zoned out it will really hit the Salvadoran families who send their kids to Bancroft.

  1. Bill Gottfried said at 11:03 am on Friday March 14, 2014:

    Great neighborhood, I renovated townhouses in Mt. Pleasant before moving to Houston. We are currently in the process of organizing an investment fund to develop and renovate additional properties in Mt. Pleasant and Adams Morgan, wonderful, wonderful DC neighborhoods.

  1. Longtime MPer said at 11:08 am on Friday March 14, 2014:

    I have lived in Mount Pleasant for over 20 years and moved here back then so I could send my kids to Wilson. This is an issue on the elementary level, junior high and high school level, and quite a big one.

    While I can sympathize with newcomers who moved here for the schools, places like Garrison and Cardozo won’t improve until the new families moving in decide to send their kids there.

  1. Melissa said at 11:57 am on Friday March 14, 2014:

    I moved to Mount Pleasant with my five year-old and send him to Bancroft now, but could be one of the families that move out if the boundaries are changed.

    I know a lot can change between now and when my son is high-school aged, and am willing to stay for a few years to see if the area junior and senior high schools (under the new boundaries) improve. But if they don’t, I do plan to move.

  1. Pogo said at 12:55 pm on Friday March 14, 2014:

    This is a tough issue because while DC does need to redraw its school boundary lines, families who chose to live in a certain neighborhood because of the public schools will bare the burden.  My thinking is that many current homeowners who were planning to send their children to public school will leave the neighborhood if this goes through. They will probably be replaced by folks who can afford to send their children to private schools.

  1. alongwinter said at 1:31 pm on Friday March 14, 2014:

    Agree with DCDave. Taking Deal and Wilson away from neighborhoods like Mount Pleasant will decrease the diversity of these schools. Over time, as elementary schools west of the park are becoming more homogeneous with fewer spots to out of boundary students, Deal and Wilson will become schools with only rich, white kids if neighborhoods like Mount Pleasant don’t stay in boundary.

  1. Dana Hollish Hill said at 2:21 pm on Friday March 14, 2014:

    It is very important for all home buyers to realize that school boundaries can change. Whether purchasing in DC or in one of the surrounding neighborhoods or towns, the change in population of school age children has a huge impact on these schools. Overcrowding has caused many schools to teach classes in trailers or other temporary structures. Many counties are rebuilding and modernizing schools and sometimes the completed schools are not large enough to accommodate the growing numbers of students.

    While it is a good idea to research schools when looking for a home, it is wise to make sure that you like the surrounding schools as well.

  1. mona said at 5:47 pm on Friday March 14, 2014:

    I am sure Deal and Wilson, at one time, were schools that few wanted to send their children to. How did it change? If it was the people in the neighborhood demanding the change why can’t the people who might get zoned out do the same thing or are they not willing to do the work that the people before them did and would rather ride on their coat tails. If you’re good parents you’re going to demand the right thing for your children no matter where they go to school so step up and fix whatever school your child may end up in or go ahead and head out to places like Reston and Loudoun County where the value of your home won’t gain the equity it does in the city and you have no future inheritance to give your children. This could be a win win on both sides for everyone if people are just willing to put in the effort and make the demands on the school system that are needed.

  1. anish said at 9:33 pm on Friday March 14, 2014:

    Mona, Deal and Wilson were always good public school options. Many in-bounds and well-to do families sent kids to Deal Junior High and then either private or Wilson for high school. They have just become wildly popular over the past few years, especially since the renovations. The high schools close to Mt Pleasant like Cardozo or Roosevelt have been among the worst in DC for decades. Improving those struggling schools won’t be easy and will take many years.

  1. StringsAttached said at 11:06 pm on Friday March 14, 2014:

    All I’m reading is a bunch of unnecessary whining! Schools don’t become high performing by themselves. It’s the parents and students, working together with staff, that create high performing schools. If we were to take students for a high performing school and place them in a low performing school and vice versa, the low performing students wouldn’t magically become high performers and the high performers wouldn’t magically forget all they knew. I actually hope they change the boundaries so all the people saying they will move do so. Honestly, where would you go? Parents like these are why our kids don’t know how to deal with a little change and adversity. The slightest hint of something not working in their favor and they’re falling into depression or committing suicide.

    And for the record, I have a child and I moved to a DC neighborhood in Ward 7 with a decent school and was swallowed into Ward 8 due to re-drawing of the boundaries because of the most recent census. It happens sometimes people! Relax! You and your kids make the school, not the other way around!

  1. jag said at 4:07 pm on Saturday March 15, 2014:

    “Honestly, where would you go?”

    Montgomery, Howard, Arlington, Fairfax or W of RCP. Duh. Most parents don’t want their kids to be the POSSIBLY successful guinea pigs of transition and understandably so. All things being equal (price, amenities), who in their right mind would live in a crappy school district instead of a good one? Of course MtP residents are going to fight this.

  1. Longtimelocal said at 12:36 am on Sunday March 16, 2014:

    DCDave is on target here. The reality is that the quality of schools has not improved across the board. Couples who bought in DC before having kids will decamp before the first child is ready for Pre-K for MD or VA suburbs. End of story. Parents from privileged backgrounds do not want to risk their child’s educational future in schools which continue to struggle.

    In the coming years, parents with financial means who stay in DC will send their kids to private schools no later than middle school. Neighborhood public schools will be left to children of parents without financial resources. There isn’t a consensus among privileged parents to stay and fight for better schools for everyone.

    More importantly, no one has addressed the need to engage parents of poor children in ways that middle and upper class parents take for granted. The key is to stop laying blame at the feet of teachers for everything that is not working at school. Instead, there should be a greater focus on early intervention of easily remedied issues (e.g. lack of glasses and an inability to see well leading to poor grades) and actively engaging parents who don’t know
    or understand how to be advocates for their child’s education.

  1. James said at 9:10 am on Monday March 17, 2014:

    Privileged parents can’t “stay and fight for better schools for everyone”, because we are too damned busy working to stay privileged.

    Pay attention.

  1. CommonDenominator said at 12:18 pm on Monday March 17, 2014:

    DC has three respected high schools Banneker, Wilson and SWoW.  (I have had the privelege of meeting the principal of each school - students matter, parents matter, teachers matter but leadership within the schools matters, all three seem to be good leaders)  Back to my question how is it that DCPS really only has one well regarded middle school vs three high schools.  Does DC need to build a brand new middle school with special offerings and make it an application / test school?

  1. MtP'er said at 11:56 am on Tuesday March 18, 2014:

    Mona, I agree with your sentiment abot investing in local schools, but you may be forgetting that Mt Pleasant has been in-boundary for Deal/Wilson for many years. These are our local schools and Mt Pleasant families have been among the families who worked hard to improve Deal and Wilson over the years. Please don’t confuse this with the situation of OOB families. Deal/Wilson are the local (in boundary) schools for Mt Pleasant and those who invested in the neighborhood should keep the right to send kids there. And, as a different issue, Bancroft should keep its Deal feed so as not to divide Bancroft students between those living west of Mt Pleasant st (single family rowhomes, possibly more affluent, currently zoned for Deal/Wilson), and those living east of Mt P but west of 16th (large apartment buildings, more ethnically diverse, currently zoned for CHEC/Wilson but able to send kids to Deal through the Bancroft feed).

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