Wilson white population continues to increase

Elie Salem

New enrollment data found that Wilson is getting more white and less Black, with a relatively constant proportion of Hispanics and students of other races. While the yearly change is small, it is part of a dramatic demographic shift from the 2013-14 school year, when Black students comprised about half the school population and whites only a quarter.

Wilson’s white population increased from 36 percent last year to 38 percent this year, while the Black population dropped from 30 percent to 29 percent. Other demographic groups remained proportionally the same. 

In the past six school years, the Black population has decreased annually by an average of three percentage points and the white population has increased annually by an average of two percentage points a year. Wilson’s Hispanic population, currently at 22 percent, has grown an average of less than one point per year. The Black population decreased in all of the last six school years. 

The greatest specific reason for this growth is a burgeoning student population at our feeder schools. Second, we have more and more students unexpectedly enrolling from private schools, charter schools, from out of state, and from other countries,” said Director of the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism Alex Wilson. Wilson noted that unexpected enrollees this year — who primarily came from out-of-state and private schools — totaled 120, and less than half were students of color. 

This year’s demographic change was buoyed by the entrance of a less diverse freshman class, which, while not the whitest, is proportionally the least Black in recent times. Remarkably, while 38 percent of freshmen are white, the proportion of Black students is nearly equal to Hispanic students, at 27 percent and 26 percent respectively. “This ninth grade year is pretty big compared to other classes, and it is highly white,” said Data Coordinator Joseph Bellino. 

The increase in white enrollment at Wilson reflects similar demographic changes in the city. From 2010 to 2015, Washington’s black population grew 4.41 percent, while the white population grew nearly four times faster at 16.85 percent. 

“We are also becoming wealthier. We used to be proud that 41 percent of our student body qualified for free or reduced lunch. Today it’s just 20 percent,” added Wilson.  

A few administrative policies have also affected the racial make-up of Wilson. Thomas Jefferson was removed as a feeder school for high school students, and Wilson’s student boundary was extended to reach more students in Ward 4, which is majority Black. Both of these changes happened at least a few years ago, however, and are not a reason for the annual change.