School Ties: Families Staying in DC, Holding Out Hope for Better Schools

by Michele Lerner

Oyster Bilingual Elementary School

The steady exodus of families from DC to the suburbs for the promise of better schools may be slowing. Anecdotal and hard evidence suggest that more families are opting to stay in DC and send their kids to public schools rather than retreat to the suburbs.

“It used to be that as soon as couples had kids they would high-tail it out of the city,” W.C. & A.N. Miller’s Glen Sutcliffe told UrbanTurf. “Now, more of them are staying and getting involved with the PTA to improve the public schools.”

Census statistics released in December 2009 show that the District gained about 9,600 residents since July 2008, and the city’s population is expected to surpass 600,000 when the 2010 census is taken. This is the opposite of DC’s population trends in the past. For several years in the 1990’s and as recently as 2003, the city had a net loss of more than 10,000 residents a year.

“Five years ago, no one was moving into the city with kids,” Sonya Abney of Cosmopolitan Properties Real Estate Brokerage explained. “Families now are optimistic that the schools will get better, and if that happens, they intend to stay as their kids get older.”

Bonnie Roberts-Burke of Evers & Company says when she moved into Adams Morgan in the mid-nineties, there were very few kids in the neighborhood. But, during last week’s record snowfall, the streets were filled with children on sleds.

“I’m finding a lot more families are choosing to stay in neighborhoods like Dupont Circle, Kalorama, and Logan Circle rather than moving to the suburbs,” Roberts-Burke told UrbanTurf.

While families may be staying put in greater numbers, what is not changing are the neighborhoods that have historically had good schools. A number of real estate agents said their clients are only looking for homes within the boundaries of the city’s top elementary schools like Horace Mann, Lafayette, Murch, Janney, and Oyster. Guy-Didier Godat of Evers says he has seen increasing interest among families in neighborhoods like AU Park, Tenleytown, Wesley Heights and Palisades, largely because of the quality of the elementary schools in these areas. But, the difference now is that these parents are actively trying to improve schools at all levels.

“I’ve seen first-hand the improvements that are being made in the public schools,” says Godat. “So far, most of the improvements have been on the elementary level, but the parent involvement in these schools is pushing into the middle school and high school level. It will take time, but I am definitely seeing young families moving into the District who will keep pushing to make sure these improvements continue.”

What do you think? Are families sticking it out in DC for the hope of better schools? Or are most still heading for the award-winning districts of MoCo and NoVa when their children finish elementary school?

See other articles related to: schools, home buying

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/school_ties_families_staying_in_dc_holding_out_hope_for_better_schools/1786


  1. Anon said at 9:55 am on Wednesday February 17, 2010:

    I definitely think current residents are sticking it out, as well as new families opting to move into the city rather than out to the suburbs. 

    I would add Hyde, Stoddert, Watkins/Peabody, and maybe Brent to the list of schools.  The other schools you’ve listed, except for Oyster, are in more suburban areas.  (Also, I note that it is pretty difficult to find anything zoned Oyster; the zone only includes a small sliver of Adams Morgan.)

  1. Jones said at 9:56 am on Wednesday February 17, 2010:

    I do believe that families are staying in DC. Despite the recent troubles with Rhee, I think that families are recognizing the benefit of DC schools that extend beyond education to the real world experiences that are offered there.

  1. wdc said at 10:54 am on Wednesday February 17, 2010:

    This is widespread on Capitol Hill.  Brent was the first school where it happened along with the cluster schools, but it has spread in recent to Ludlow Taylor and Maury as well.  Credit the active Mothers on The Hill for organizing groups of folks to commit to doing this together.

  1. TrueTom said at 11:04 am on Wednesday February 17, 2010:

    Having grown up in DC and seen a number of my classmates go private or move out of the city after elementary school, it is very nice to hear that families are now staying and making a concerted effort to make the schools better.

  1. Z said at 11:47 pm on Wednesday February 17, 2010:

    We have two children and decided we would homeschool them before we would sell out and move to the suburbs.  However, our neighborhood, Bloomingdale, has a very strong, coordinated parents’ network that is committed to working with existing public schools to make them better.  The baby boom in Bloomingdale is phenomenal and the parents have expressed a strong desire to stay in such a great neighborhood.  A number of area charter schools provide other very viable options.

  1. hoos30 said at 1:01 pm on Thursday February 18, 2010:

    Add us to list of those who are “sticking it out”, rather than beating a path to the burbs.  Our daughter has been in the Montessori Program at Watkins for two years and we are very happy with it.  We are in the process of moving now, and although we considered a few homes in MoCo, we ultimately selected a nice home in Shepherd Park.  Our debate now is whether we keep her at Watkins (rough commute from uptown) or put her in Shepherd, which is a highly rated school.

    The real challenge comes in the MS and HS years. I dislike Fenty greatly but love Rhee’s no-nonsense approach….hmmm, what to do?

  1. DCRez said at 1:55 pm on Thursday February 18, 2010:

    We [wife and two kids] looked in VA and MD but also ended up staying in city. Just moved from Mt Vernon Sq to Chevy Chase DC [Murch elementary boundary]. While the kids are not school age yet we are excited about the prospect of Murch.  We only recently moved but we have met many families with who also recently moved with the same age children and are expecting to use Murch. The neighborhoods in the city have so much more charm and character not to mention the families who tend to stay are typically pretty cool people.

  1. Simon Landau said at 7:02 pm on Sunday February 21, 2010:

    Thanks for the article Michelle.  I feel as though this is an issue that many overlook when investigating DC real estate.  I would be curious to see the age stat splits on the people who staying in DC.  While the city is definitely getting lots of young professionals, I wonder if the older families are staying and moving in at a similar rate.

  1. ET said at 11:23 pm on Sunday February 21, 2010:

    Capitol Hill is also getting this phenomenon. Cluster School, Brent, Maury and others are getting to be very sought after schools and others are on the way.  So, don’t forget to look at this neighborhood too.  Great communities and families are not only in Ward 3!

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