Growing enrollment will exacerbate overcrowding problems

Enrollment at Jackson-Reed next school year is projected to be 2,128 students. The number of students has steadily increased over the past decade. As more students enroll, there is less space available in the building.

Jackson-Reed receives a set amount of funding from DCPS per student that attends. As the number of students who attend Jackson-Reed increases, so will the amount of money the school brings in. This money gives the administration the opportunity to look into alternatives to limit overcrowding.

DCPS is working with the school to try and secure off-campus spaces for classrooms next year. 

We would prefer trailers, but right now we have been told there’s no money in the capital budget for those,” Interim Principal Gregory Bargeman said. “The LSAT sent a letter downtown to see if [DCPS] is able to find money for trailers. If that’s not the case, we are going to be as creative as possible.”

Jackson-Reed is trying to find a solution as soon as possible, as students are starting to feel the effects of increased enrollment. “Students [are having] less one-on-one time with teachers,” sophomore Halim Carr explained.

“[Jackson-Reed] is too crowded,” added junior Margaret Patterson. “We can barely move through the hallways.”

In early 2021, DCPS announced that two new schools will open in Ward 3 to alleviate the stress of increasing student bodies on current schools. One, located on Foxhall Road, would be built on the old Hardy Middle School campus, and is set to open in the 2024-25 school year. It will likely serve as an elementary school.

The other new Ward 3 school will be built on what was formerly the lower school campus of Georgetown Day School, located on MacArthur Boulevard. It would draw away the Hardy feeder pattern from Jackson-Reed. The MacArthur campus is set to open in the 2024-25 school year. 

Mayor Bowser has proposed $45 million to transform the MacArthur campus into a new 1,000 student high school. Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh endorsed the proposal. The school would have 1,000 spots, with half of those spots being reserved for out-of-bounds students.

However, the new school would do little to help with overcrowding. Only 90 students come to Jackson-Reed from Hardy each year, and the majority of students continue to come from Deal Middle School. 

Some have suggested using the MacArthur campus or space at University of District of Columbia as a ninth-grade campus for Jackson-Reed students, separating the ninth grade from the rest of Jackson-Reed’s student body and alleviating overcrowding in the school building. 

English teacher Allison Conroy sees both sides of the argument. “It definitely helps with crowding and with the transition from middle school to high school, but it also isolates the ninth grade class,” she said.

“It would be unfair ’cause you’re basically putting [the ninth graders] into some kind of middle school,” said Carr. Patterson is also against the idea. “Part of the freshman experience is interacting with people who are older than you,” she said.  

Additionally, isolating Jackson-Reed’s ninth-grade class could result in a slew of logistical problems, as freshmen would have to return to the main campus for electives, school activities, and clubs. 

Another solution, if Jackson-Reed receives the needed funding, would be to move trailers onto the Jackson-Reed property. The trailers would serve as extra places to teach, reducing stress on existing classrooms. However, the trailers would need water and electricity, which is both difficult to organize and costs money. Additionally, Interim Principal Bargeman and Mary Cheh’s office have both confirmed that there is no money in the budget for trailers.

Outdoor teaching has also been mentioned by Interim Principal Bargeman as a way to remove students from jam-packed classrooms and give the building more space. However, Conroy explained that it’s “not a sustainable all-year plan.” Once the winter rolls around, it will be too cold for students to remain outside. Also, inclement weather would foil any plans of  learning outdoors.

The school is also looking at adding on a “zero” and “ninth” period at the beginning and end of the school day, possibly splitting the student body into two groups. One group would come in the morning, and the second in the afternoon. 

Additionally, unused spaces such as auditoriums may be turned into classroom spaces. Film studies, a class that is now located in a classroom on the third floor, may be moved down to the auditorium.

According to Mary Cheh’s office, renovations for Jackson-Reed are not in the budget. 

“​​DCPS and city leadership continue to weigh the recommendations and discuss all options, and no final decision has been made,” the DCPS Strategic School Planning Team said in an update in September 2021. 

DCPS declined to comment on Jackson-Reed’s enrollment or possible solutions. 

While Jackson-Reed’s 2022-23 budget did not address overcrowding issues, Bargeman noted that the LSAT plans to focus on addressing the problem during the budget process for next year, as well communicating with DCPS leadership directly about potential solutions. “We have to figure out some type of solution to take the pressure off the building,” he said.” •