Judgment of Solomon to Cleave Stoddert Elementary
Updated: Sep 26, 2021
In the Bible, two women claimed to be the mother of an infant boy and each asked King Solomon to grant the child to her. Solomon ruled that the boy would be cut in half, and half given to each mother. In Washington DC, The District of Columbia Public School system (DCPS) now is deliberating whether to cleave Glover Park and give Stoddert Elementary and the planned Foxhall Elementary each half of the neighborhood’s students. Currently, the leading proposal of six scenarios is to divide the neighborhood at Benton Street, with those on the south side and below assigned to Foxhall, and those on the north side and above assigned to Stoddert. Many current and future Stoddert parents are outraged over this “wisdom of Solomon.”
DCPS formed a Community Working Group (CWG) in January to help decide how to go forward with plans for the new Foxhall school as well as the old Georgetown Day School recently obtained (which they label as “MacArthur school”) and how to manage their three Guiding Principles encompassing the larger school planning framework: 1) Promote equity of access and diversity, 2) Relieve overcrowding at Wilson feeder schools, and 3) minimize unnecessary changes. DCPS acknowledges in their stated principles that they may forego minimizing unnecessary changes in exchange for equity of access. DCPS has recruited 19 members to the CWG – 11 parents, 6 community reps (e.g. PTO, ANC), and 2 DCPS staff – to help propose, review and decide the outcome of this initiative. In their fifth meeting on March 25th, the CWG reiterated that diversity and equity of access are non-negotiable in any proposed scenario.
Yes, Stoddert is severely overcrowded and it is getting worse, so most acknowledge that something needs to be done about it. The plan to expand Stoddert to relieve the overcrowding was scrapped last year (without public input) in exchange for building a new school in Foxhall (see prior article on that). DCPS stated in one presentation that “the Wilson feeder pattern has grown whiter,” which runs counter to their principle of diversity and equity of access. On a macro level, they are correct, though looking at the micro/neighborhood level this is not typically the case. In fact, the number and percentage of white students at Stoddert has declined since 2016/17, while the Asian student population has risen dramatically, African American has held steady and Latino has dropped significantly, according to the statistics presented by DCPS. Of all Wilson feeder schools, only Hardy Middle School has risen significantly in white students (from 62 to 188 over last 5 years), due to the renewed popularity of the school to parents in-boundary (up from 23% to 54% in-boundary). Yet, Hardy still is well under capacity (57% utilization) compared to Stoddert which already is at 146% of school capacity and projected to go to 181%. One could claim that “equity of access” has been reduced at Stoddert due to the in-boundary population and the lower likelihood now of out-of-boundary lottery slots. All this indicates, as a number of parents have stated, that “different neighborhoods need different solutions.” Unfortunately, Stoddert and Glover Park are only a small cog in the giant wheel of DCPS, which means this wheel needs to be extra-squeaky or our school cohesiveness will be divided forever with significant impact to the neighborhood.
The CWG has met with DCPS a number of times already and has come up with six scenarios. Interestingly, all six scenarios cleave Glover Park either by boundary at Benton Street, or by grade (PK-2 at Stoddert, grade 3-5 at MacArthur, then Foxhall when the new school is ready). Not one proposed scenario keeps Glover Park students together and in walking distance to their school. This is like a king’s committee of executioners deliberating whether heads should be chopped from the left or from the right. Voting by consensus that it is best to chop from the left does not make the decision just, fair or correct. The 19 members of the CWG were asked to vote for their favorite option at the fourth meeting on March 18th. 10 members voted for the new Foxhall Elementary School option which divides the Glover Park student population in half. See the pic above of the proposed boundaries. Look at the number “4” encircled – the black horizontal line where the purple area meets the pink area is Benton Street in Glover Park.
You have very limited time to make your voice heard. The final deliberation meeting of the CWG is on May 6th, and then they will meet again on May 20th to make their final proposal to DCPS. The decision will have great impact on the neighborhood and your children, so please speak up before May 6th and contact your representatives to let them know what you think, and maybe propose your own scenarios 7 through 10 not on the table yet! A number of parents already have sent letters.
The attached file contains the emails of our representatives involved in deciding this issue. They need to hear what you think about this: