Bowser Tweaks School Assignment Plan




Mayor Muriel Bowser announced her office’s adjustments to the new student assignment plan for DC public schools on February 27. The tweaks, which Bowser released two months after taking office, directly affect the Crestwood and 16th Street Heights neighborhoods and Kelly Miller Middle School community. The changes take effect immediately.

“Our tweaks to the student assignment plan are a responsible and strategic approach towards ensuring the District of Columbia’s public schools remain on track towards growth and progress,” said Mayor Bowser in a press release.

The original student assignment plan, which was finalized in August, was an initiative of former Deputy Mayor Abigail Smith under previous Mayor Vincent Gray. The plan was a response to issues of overcrowding in upper Northwest schools and undercrowding in schools in the other three quadrants. Its development was spearheaded by a 20-member DC Advisory Committee on Student Assignment. Matthew Frumin, the parent of three Wilson alumni and an advisory committee member, said that the process of creating the plan was a months-long process, requiring dozens of community meetings and committee meetings and “pretty vibrant internal debate.” The final product altered school boundaries throughout the city, and changed several feeder patterns.

However, when Bowser replaced Gray in January, the power to change or eliminate the student assignment plan was in her hands. “Bowser was very clear in the campaign that she was going to put her mark on it,” said Frumin.

She ultimately came up with two tweaks to the plan. The first extends the grandfathering policy for families in the Crestwood and 16th Street Heights neighborhoods (currently in boundary for Alice Deal Middle School) until 2022, at which point elementary schools in those neighborhoods would begin feeding into MacFarland Middle School. The second tweak gives students at Kelly Miller Middle School the choice about whether to attend Eastern High School or Woodson High School. Bowser said that both tweaks were the result of her concerns that geographic features like the Anacostia River or Rock Creek Park would divide DC students.

Frumin was unsurprised by the first change. “Crestwood [and] 16th Street Heights was a big issue along every step of the way,” he said. The neighborhoods are a part of Bowser’s home ward, and after the original student assignment plan was released, Ward 4 activists sent letters to the mayor’s office recommending similar adjustments. Frumin says that he has witnessed some backlash to this tweak from Woodley Park and Oyster-Adams families, who immediately lost their right to attend Deal.

Bowser’s solution to what Frumin dubbed “the Kelly Miller issue” went farther than the advisory committee had expected. “No one on the advisory committee had proposed as dramatic a move as the one Bowser ended up making,” he said. Frumin worries about potential overcrowding at Eastern and implications for the strength of Woodson as a high school option.

“What is absolutely critical about both the success of the original proposal and perhaps even more so after the tweaks is that the city provide the maximum support to ensure that MacFarland and Roosevelt and Woodson are, and are perceived to be, high quality options for people who live close to them,” said Frumin.