Wilson expecting over 2,000 students next year

Winston Botts and Anna Dueholm

Wilson is projected to have a student body of 2,015 students in the upcoming school year, roughly a 25 student increase from this year. This is the highest enrollment projection Wilson has seen to date.

Each year, DCPS Central Office projects the school’s enrollment for the next school year. “Usually the projection is lower than what our actual number is, and so the concern usually is that we don’t get budgeted for all the kids that are in the building,” Principal Kimberly Martin said. 

Recently, Wilson’s Local School Advisory Team (LSAT), a group of teachers, staff, parents, and other community members met and decided to petition Central Office for a higher enrollment projection based on the fact that the number of students coming and staying at Wilson has increased over the past few years. “We looked over numbers and looked at trends over the last few years, and the LSAT advised me to petition the Central Office to approve 2,015 students,” Martin said. 

After presenting its rationale and Wilson’s increasing enrollment numbers to Central Office, Wilson’s LSAT received approval for a student enrollment projection of 2,015, a slightly higher number than what Central Office had originally proposed. “This year, I think we’re going to get budgeted for the amount of kids we’re going to get. I don’t think we’re going to get many more than 2,015,” Martin said.  

Wilson’s enrollment is measured several times throughout the year. The highest and most accurate count this year was 1,990 students. The projected increase is roughly only 25 students, and no adjustments have been made for next school year. The enrollment projection for next year is 400 students above the current building capacity of 1,650 students.

Some students have begun to feel the impacts of a school filled above capacity. “It’s definitely a problem. You can see the overcrowding in the hallways and in classes already and every year it’s just going to keep getting worse,” junior Emma Harris said. “I’m in a class with almost 40 kids and there’s barely enough desks.” 

In 2015, Martin worked with Wilson staff to repurpose teacher workrooms and divide larger classrooms into two to create more classroom space. “The issue with filling a school beyond its capacity is that you can create additional classrooms perhaps, but you can’t add additional bathrooms or make the hallways wider or make extra field space or have a bigger cafeteria,” Martin said. 

Despite the increasingly limited space, sophomore Lucy Harllee appreciates the growing number of students at Wilson. “This increase isn’t a surprise to anyone,” she said. “But in a weird inexplicable way, it makes me more excited to love our school. It’s a bigger community with more chaos and therefore more fun.” 

The reason for the trend in Wilson’s growing student body has to do in part with the middle schools sending students to Wilson. “Overall, the size of Deal is getting bigger, Hardy as well,” Principal Martin said. According to Martin, another cause of the growing student body is an increase in retention rate for ninth graders. “We used to see about 15 to 25 percent of ninth graders not come back for tenth grade, and last year for some reason they didn’t leave. The ninth graders stayed on for their tenth grade year and our tenth grade class was bigger.” 

In August of 2019, over 100 students coming from private and charter schools enrolled at Wilson. “Our product is becoming more and more attractive to families who used to not be attracted to our product,” Martin said. Last year’s ninth grade class had a 23% withdrawal rate, with the most common reason for students leaving being to transfer to DC private schools (19% of withdrawn students). Those numbers show a reduction in the amount of students leaving, and the amount of students leaving to attend private schools.

In response to the growing student body, school administrators and the LSAT have discussed increasing restrictions on out-of-boundary students, as well as taking measures to cut down on crowds in the building, such as two lunch periods. “I have zero desire to turn students away. One of the solutions that’s been thrown around is that maybe we need to put restrictions on out-of-bounds students coming from feeder schools, but I’m not in favor of any of those decisions,” Martin said.