Dear PoP – Schools in PoPville?

by Prince Of Petworth — February 14, 2011 at 2:30 pm 42 Comments

Photo of ‘Gage-Eckington Elementary School (1976), 2025 Third Street, NW. Demolished September 2009’ by PoPville flickr user rockcreek

“Dear PoP,

PoP, being childless (that we know of), you might not be aware that school application deadlines are approaching. The out-of-boundary applications are due in just a few weeks.

Can we have a conversation about where the little PoPers go? Who’s happy with their in-boundary school? How about the charters in the area?

The DCPS OOB lottery application is here: https://lottery.dcps.dc.gov/

This is a terrific resource to read about all the options– public, charter and private: http://www.focusdc.org/images/schdir2.pdf

For those who have kids – where do you send them? How hard was it to get them into your chosen school?

  • Anonymous

    For Petworthers and other nearby moms & dads, Barnard preschool program PS-3 and 4, is great!

    I hear good things about and see nice parents outside in the playground at the new EL Haines campus.

    Wish Oyster had in boundary pre-school program.

  • cbr

    Be sure to check out school profiles!


    Or, go to dcps.dc.gov and click on the “Learn About Schools” tab.

  • We went through the process a few years back. We live in Ward 5 my kids go to school in Ward 3. It took my wife and I two years ( at 1st grade) to get older child in Ward 3 public elementary school then second child received sibling preference. My older child now attends Deal, beautifully renovated, very solid. Wilson High School in undergoing major renovation but my first choice High School in a couple of years is School Without Walls. Certain elementary schools never seem to have any out of-boundary-spots. Kindergarten slots are extremely limited and pre-k slots are almost nonexistent at DC’s best schools. Oyster’s application lottery process seems…let me be polite… ‘not very transparent’, or at least it was. I considered Murch, Eaton, Oyster, Shepherd, Hearst, Capital City PCS, Capitol Hill Cluster, and a few others. We also explored private school route but not financially feasible . My out-of-boundary selections came down to school quality, availability of slots and ease of drop off.

    Luckily there seem to be a growing number of good options in DC (like Haynes, Two Rivers) even compared to just a few years ago.

    • MichelleRD

      What do you mean by “not very transparent?” Obvious preferences given to some families over others?

  • CheeseTriangle

    I am totally new to this and I have a toddler. Can someone please post a link to something that easily explains a pre-K or preschool program for DC kids? I had no idea such a thing existed, as I’d always assume we started kids at Kindergarten (for public school).

    • WDC

      This covers a lot of it.

      The important thing to remember is that even if you’re not vying for an out-of-boundaries spot, you are not guaranteed a spot for preschool or pre-K at your in-boundaries school. You ARE guaranteed a spot at your in-boundaries school for kindergarten.

    • Heather

      For toddlers I can’t recommend Apple Tree International in Columbia Heights enough! GREAT SCHOOL. My son was reading when he left there. It’s only a 2 year pre-school program, so you will find yourself looking again soon, but it was amazing.

      Now he goes to Yu Ying in Brookland and is speaking in Chinese. We have some really amazing schools around us if you just take the time to look.

  • Former Lawyer

    Our kids go to Ross. We did the out of boundary lottery a few years ago and then again with the second kid, although with the second one we got to take advantage of the sibling preference.

    Ross has turned out to be a great choice for us — not only is the school small enough so that we know (or at least recognize) the vast majority of the kids and parents, but we’ve also become good friends with some. We’re not that far out of boundary, so having classmates within walking distance has been great for our kids.

    As far as the difficulty in getting in goes, with such a small school (1 class per grade) it’s impossible to calculate the odds, since a few families moving into the boundary can change the odds significantly. What we have noticed is that there’s a shakeout period during the first few weeks of each school year, and as kids get admitted from waiting lists at various private and charter schools spots open up at public schools like Ross. Also, in years past the waiting lists have been administered by the individual schools, so it doesn’t hurt to get to know the school’s principal. Sometimes persistence pays off.

    Good luck.

  • Anonymous

    All DC public schools offer Pre-Kindergarten (PK-4)
    for 4 year olds. Public schools east of the Park (i.e. Poorer neighborhoods) offer Pre-School for 3 year olds (PS-3. Most of the good charters offer PS-3.

    We went through this whole process last year, and the good news is, DC Public Schools East of the Park are not nearly as bad as you hear. The test scores (which are for 3-5th graders) are low, but a lot of the schools, principals, pre-school teachers are great and the schools over here in our ‘hood are (for lack of a better word) “gentrifying”. If you send your three year old to a PS-3 east of the park, your classroom is not going to be full of the children of rich white people, but you child is also not likely to be the only white kid in the classroom any more. So, don’t dismiss east of the park public schools, or charter schools, and for goodness sake, don’t just run off to the suburbs when your kid is 4 — you can find a decent school AND still get a drink at Meridian pint.

  • Matt

    We really like EL Haynes.

    application is here (http://www.elhaynes.org/edocs/Application_for_Admission_2011-2012.pdf)

    for the little kids (those entering fifth grade and below), it looks like you have until March 31st to apply. Lottery is Sat April 9th. Be aware that entry is very competitive, however I don’t have the exact numbers accepted vs applied. (There are virtually no openings after Kindergarten, if I recall correctly).

  • WDC

    We’ll hit the charters pretty hard, but it’s the OOB lottery I’m worried about. We’re in-boundaries for Tubman, but I can’t find much positive web chatter about it. I’m thinking we’ll try for schools with better numbers, and see how Tubman does over the next year, when we’ll have a guaranteed kindergarten spot. Would love to hear feedback, if anyone sends there kids there now.

    So I’m trying to work out a strategy for my six OOB slots… go for the longshots, or concentrate on schools that are closer and on an upward trajectory?

    Also, Mundo Verde is new this year, so there’s very little to go on. Anyone on the inside? What’s the risk in jumping into a charter on their first year?

    • dreas

      There was actually a recent thread on DCUM in the DC schools branch where a few people spoke very highly of Tubman. I was really surprised. We’re in-bounds for Raymond (and not facing this issue until next year for PS-3) but it would be nice to have that as a real option because it’s so convenient. I’ve also read some good things about Bancroft for PS/PK, at least.

      I think our strategy will be the same as yours: maybe one or two long-shots known to be the “good” DC schools, but getting my kid over to Key every day would be an utter nightmare. So I think we’ll give serious consideration to improving schools that are easier commute-wise. Also, I just don’t see much sense in wasting all six OOB bids on schools where the odds are very, very heavily against you.

      Good luck. I’ll be doing the same agonizing a year from now…

  • andy

    read this and ignore the horrible attitudes you find there: http://www.dcurbanmom.com/jforum/forums/show/32.page

    • WDC

      Oh yeah, I’m all over that. I think it’s contributing to the confusion. The DCUMs are nothing if not confident in their omniscience.

    • Anonymous

      Oh God, ignore that!! The best you get there are a few helpful comments smothered by a bunch of trollish haters who try to make you feel awful for not a) moving to the suburbs and ruining your live, b) moving to upper Northwest and draining your bankaccounts, or c) letting your precious snowflake go to school with *GASP* FARMS (aka Free Lunch) kids and people with dark skin.

      • Anonymous

        Ruining my life to educate my children in public schools. Now who’s a trollish hater?

        • Anonymous

          I think the point is, you don’t *need* to move the suburbs to get a good education for your kids. No one is hating on you for moving the the suburbs, the point is in the DC “urban” Moms the majority opinion seems to be that if you decide to live in Columbia Height and send your kid to a close by school you are engaged in child endangerment — that that, my friend, is hating. Call me a troll, but I suspect a lot of the DCUMs are trying to justify a decision they are not so happy with (perhaps “ruin” was too strong a word) but dumping on everyone who makes a contrary decision.

          But, the more critical point is, very few of the comments on DCUM about east of the park schools or charter schools are comments made by people with any first hand experience in either type of school.

          • Anonymous

            Completely agree with this. I’m not a DC urban mom poster and I think it goes both ways. Some parents choose to move to the burbs for schooling. Others choose to work to find a decent school in DC since the other quality of life issues are very advantageous. Every parent makes their own choice by weighing many factors and so it is best to refrain from saying that one parent is endangering their children and the other one has ruined their own life.

  • Anonymous

    Here is a quick summary of East of the Park options.

    Public Schools (all start at PS-3, but space is not guaranteed even if you are in-boundary, so you must enter the lottery).

    Barnard in Petworth gets rave reviews — check in out.

    H.D. Cooke in Adams Morgan (17th and Euclid) is in-boundary for southern Columbia Heights and most of northern Adam’s Morgan (north of 17th). PS teachers are great, building is WONDERFUL, principal is great. There is a small but committed group of middle class parents (of various races) working to make it the school of choice for the neighborhood. At least check it out, and don’t sweat the test scores for older students — the school was in trailers with a different principal for 5 years. This school is certainly great thru Kindergarten and if the neighborhood parents stay involved it will be great for the long haul. The school is currently awaiting IB certification — so it is not just teaching to the test.

    Tubman – Much nicer on the inside than it looks from the outside. Test scores are on the rise. This is still an almost 100% African American and Hispanic school population. But, I have heard the principal is very good. If your child is white, he/she might be an “only” but it would only take a few organized neighborhood parents to change that. (And, I’m pretty sure 3 year olds really care about that stuff — it might mater when they get older).

    Garrison – Northern Logan Circle. Don’t know much about it. Right now the school is nearly 100% African American and many of the students are not from the neighborhood. There are a few middle class neighborhood parents (again of multiple races) working to build a PTA and make it into more of a neighborhood school.

    Thomson – Logan South (12th and L). Certified IB school with a beautifully renovated building. Offers Chinese language lessons starting at 4 years old. This school WAS awesome, but Rhee got rid of the principal, so I’m not sure how it is now. The PS and PK teachers seemed very good when I visited the school. School is mostly Hispanic and has a “large” (For DC at about 6%) Chinese population from China Town. The PS/PK here is certainly as good as any daycare that you are paying $12K a year for and you can’t beat the downtown location.

    Bancroft – MtP – Offers immersion and dual language programs in Spanish/English. Old building, but new library paid for by Target. Principal seems very good. Traditionally middle class MtP parents sent their kids west of the Park for school, there is a movement of neighborhood MtP parents to send their kids to Bancroft. School has very low test scores and a largely poor Hispanic population, but this might not hold for the PS-Kindergarten grades.

    Other public schools that I have heard good things about, but don’t know much about: West Education Campus, Shepard Elementary, Marie Reed.

    Ross in Dupont Circle starts at PK-4. It was historically a school full of poor out-of-boundary AA and Hispanic children, but at this point I think the lower grades are pretty much fully “gentrified” with children of the Dupont/Logan baby boomlet. School is at 17th and R, you can’t beat the location for easy drop off on your way downtown to work.

    There are no guaranteed spots in PS or PK, even if you are in-boundary. But, if you are in-boundary for any of the above schools, you’ll likely get in via the lottery b/c in-boundary kids have preference. You can also apply to any of these schools even if you are out-of-boundary (OOB) for PK/PS. Rank them in your order of preference on the lottery. Your chances of getting into any of these schools via OOB lottery is pretty good, but you might have to wait until August for the wait-list to move.

    Charter schools coming up in a separate comment.

    • MichelleRD

      Great run down. Does the OOB lottery give any preference given to proximity? We’re just a few blocks shy of the Barnard boundary.

      • WDC

        Yes, 3000 feet from elementary schools, and 5000 feet for middle schools and above will get you a preference.

      • andy

        walking distance counts for something, it only goes up to 3 blocks though.

    • Anonymous

      Charter Schools

      The “Magnificent 6” charter school are the schools that are reasonably racially integrated and have produced decent test scores. There may be other schools that are also good, so do your homework. But, if you are a middle class PoP urbanite, you’d be foolish not to apply to all of these schools.

      E.L. Haynes — Starts at PS-3. Conveniently located in Petworth. Middle grades are on GA ave. Little kids and oldest students are at Kansas Ave. This school actually has the second best test scores in the City for white students — if you care about tests. The AA and Hispanic kids at this school do better than their peers in DCPS.

      E.W. Stokes — Located in Brookland, right near the CAU Metro. Easy drive or bike from Col. Heights/PW. This school offers dual language education in either French or English. Your 3 and 4 year old will be in total immersion French if you elect for French. School was historically focused on poor Hispanic Children in Col. Heights/MtP and was located on 16th. Now located on a beautiful/safe/isolated campus in Brookland the school has attracted middle class parents from Brookland (and Ward 1). Test scores are decent — adjusted for population. Hard to beat the offer of French immersion. Parents at the Open House and kids in the PS/PK class were a Benneton Ad of races, cultures, incomes, the vibe at the school was just super friendly, caring, awesome, and the school just one an award for its school lunch program which sounds great – everything cooked in house from scratch, not the usual school lunch slop, try to source locally etc, etc.

      LAMB – Latin American Bilingual Montessori. 13th and Military Rd. A montessori program with dual immersion English French. Nice campus, very involved parents, MONTESSORI!! Maybe 4 slots open in the lottery for English speaking 3 or 4 year olds — so you are truly playing the lottery with this one.

      Two Rivers – Located on Cap Hill, so not so convenient for PoPville. Expeditionary/Outward bound learning program. Good scores. Crappy playground. Very sought after, however, so there are likely to be only a couple of slots open for 3 year olds. More open up for 4s when a class is added.

      Cap City — Currently located at 15th and Irving. Not an ideal location, but a highly regarded school with good outcomes and a very integrated population (nearly 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 Black, white, Hispanic). Expeditionary learning. Starts at PK-4 — not available for 3 year olds.

      Yu Ying — Chinese dual language immersion. If you want your kids to learn Chinese, this is the way to go. School was started by MtP parents looking for other options. School is very mixed racially but biased to White and then AA. Not so many Hispanic kids. More Asian kids than most schools. Supposed to be very intense academically. Will be in a beautiful new building in the fall. Locate in Brookland/North east. Starts at 4 — no PS-3.

      The other options that are worth checking out are

      AppleTree Public Charter School at 14th and Columbia Rd. It only serves 3 and 4 year olds but is supposed to be a wonderful pre-school AND it is FREE. I would not choose it over any of the above schools, but given the limited spots in the great charters, having AppleTree as a back-up plan is a good idea. And, you can use the money you save on Daycare/nanny to save for college.

      Bridges Public Charter — 13th and Taylor. Similar to Appletree, offers only 3 and 4 year old programs. Apparently has an excellent inclusion program for special needs kids, but also does very well with non-special needs kids also.

      Mundo Verde — New Public Charter School just opening up in the Fall. Will start at PS-3 but there is likely to be spots in 4, K and 1st b/c the school is new. You’ll have a much higher chance of getting in here, b/c the sibling preference would eat up all the slots like it does at the Mag 6. Dual language immersion in English/Spanish with a focus on environment/sustainability. Located, for the moment, in Dupont – likely to move to long term location somewhere on the greenline in the next two years.

      Lots of options. The important things are 1)don’t panic; 2) DON’T move to the ‘burbs; 2) ignore the “west of the park” snobs who tell you that you must send your kids over there or be branded as a negligent parent — sure those schools have better scores, but that does not hve to be the case when your kid is in 3rd grade. I did not look at one PS-3 or PK-4 program here in PoPville that I would not hold up to the programs West of the Park (and besides, you’ll never get into the west of the park schools for PK-4 b/c the slots are all taken by In-boundary kids).

      • David

        We have a toddler at Bridges Public Charter Pre-School in her second year (she just turned four). While she doesn’t have special needs, the school offers amazing inclusionary services for these kids. The mix of people in the school is amazing. And my the school performs well. unlike many other pre-K programs, Bridges takes children who will turn three by the end of the calendar year.

      • Heather

        Again, I absolutely LOVED AppleTree. Great program designed to get kids reading before kindergarten and it works! Wished the school was a full elementary so my son could have stayed there forever.

        We got into Yu Ying with ease and our lottery application for EL Haynes also came through, albeit two weeks into the school year. So I would disagree that this would harm your chances of getting into a PCS at all.

    • ColHts

      Excellent rundown. Thanks for saying positive things about each of these schools. Stay in the city, folks!

  • Otis Gal

    Went to Haynes Open house Saturday. They are halving the number of Pre-K slots to 21, will be a mix of 3 and 4 year olds. Will not be accepting any 4 year olds and are unsure how many three year olds. Chances of getting in? I’d say about none.

    • Anonymous

      Someone has to get in. Application takes 5 minutes to fill out and costs you nothing. If you are the ONE who gets in it was worth it. If you don’t get in, you lose nothing.

      • andy

        That’s unlike the situation with DCPS, which only lets you apply to a certain number of schools (six?). So you have to find out insider info like an out-of-boundary non-Spanish speaker can never get into Oyster due to application numbers, or else you’re just wasting precious applications.

        • Anonymous

          True. Because you can apply to as many charters as you like, there is no “cost” to applying even if odds are vanishingly small.

          With DCPS you have to figure out your 6 top choices where you ahve a chance of getting in and then rank those choices in your order of preference. Homework must be done.

  • andy

    in PoPville, charter-world is:

    1. Haynes and Cap City: the charters everybody wants, near Petworth and Columbia Heights metros, demographics are gentrifier-inclusive. Really good test scores, Really hard to get in.
    2. Two Rivers: Do you live near 4th & Florida NE? I didn’t think so. But if you get in, congratulations.
    3. Yu Ying: Do you live on upper Harewood Road? The fans love it, but you gotta drive your kid up to Archbishop Carroll and how are you supposed to help your kid do homework in Chinese?
    4. Stokes: Do you live in Brookland? Félicitations! Hope you can get in.
    5. Do you live off of Military Road or want to drive there? Do you want to have your kid speak Spanish? Do you like Montessori? Do you want to cross your fingers and hope you’ll get in? If so, great! Apply to LAMB.
    6. Mundo Verde. Does not exist yet. May exist in the future. Unlikely to exist near Dupont Circle.

    I’m sure I missed something. Just keep adding info below.

    • Heather

      Yu Ying Chinese homework is not super hard at all. I was nervous about this. It’s usually a continuation of what they do in class, tracing characters and matching pictures with characters. They also have a “chinese homework” group in their after school program that helps and lots of materials on the website. Don’t let that be a deterrent.

      Traveling there is a pain if you don’t have a car, but the bus can get you pretty darn close.

  • Puchica

    I have heard great things about Mundo Verde and have met some of the people involved. Any charter is going to be a little hectic for the first few years, but if you get in on the ground floor you can help shape the school as it grows.

    For those of you who can wait a few years, Capital City may be growing significantly when/if they move to a new campus. Also, it is always worth it to apply even if the odds look daunting!

    As a DCPS graduate and charter school teacher I second the earlier commenters – don’t flee to the suburbs! There are lots of great options.

  • sheepprofessor

    My four-year-old absolutely loves Appletree PCS at 14th and Girard. As stated above, they only do 3- and 4-year-old programs, so it’s not a long-term solution, but it is outstanding for what it is. The kid has fun, he is learning a lot of things that I certainly never learned in school when I was his age, the teachers are fantastic, the kids in his class come from virtually every demographic represented in the District, and it is free. The only drawback is starting over with the lottery after two years.

  • Anonymous

    Here is a notice from DCUM about a School Forum being hosted in PoPville on Wednesday the 16 (i.e. two days from now). Sounds like it could be worth attending, it is at All Souls’ Unitarian Church on Wednesday.

    Two years ago, the founders of the DC Twins group hosted a school choice forum at All Souls Church in Washington, DC to share our experiences with other parents who were considering their options for the following fall. Last year, we hosted another forum, attended by many school principals, school officials, and about 75 parents.

    Based on the success of the forum in the past two years, I’m writing to invite you to the third annual school choice forum, sponsored by DC Twins but open to all parents. This forum consists of twin parents presenting what process they went through to pick the schools their
    children are currently attending, and will include frank conversation about how things are working out.

    The forum will be held in the dining room at All Souls Church at 1500 Harvard Street, NW on February at 2/16 at 7:15 PM. To cover the cost of the church rental, we are asking folks to pay what they can towards an entry fee. The suggested amount per participant is $5. No one will
    be turned away, and excess funds will be divided amongst the parent presenters to go to the schools’ PTAs, PTSOs, etc.

    The event’s format will be as follows:

    1. 7:15-8:00: DC Twins parents will talk about where their kids are enrolled and what they like and don’t like about the schools. The conversation will span from public (West, Cooke, Oyster, Hearst,Eaton, Bancroft) to charter (Appletree, Bridges, LAMB). All principals whose
    schools will be discussed will be invited to come.
    2. 8:00-8:15 Q & A
    3. 8:15-8:45 Introduction of administration folks (chancellor’s office, DC school board person, school principals, etc), followed by information tabling.
    4. 8:45-9:00: drinks and socializing
    Last year, some of the principals had an opportunity to address the parents themselves. Hopefully there will be time this year as well; if not, schools may staff a table with information brochures and friendly staff.

  • Charter Parent

    Minor correction to generally excellent rundown of school choices above.

    I’m currently a Yu Ying parent and the school population is not “biased to white then AA”. The school is 50% AA, about 30% white, maybe 15% Asian and then a small number of Hispanics.

    Also I’d note that the odds of getting into Yu Ying this year for a 4 year old are actually the best since the school started. Yu Ying is going to have about 90-100 open slots for the prek class next year depending on how many siblings apply.

    • David

      And Yu Ying’s new building looks amazing, at least from the outside.

  • Jaycee

    I felt like the public school and charter open house process was like going on college visits all over again. It is about fit, and the chances of getting in to that school.

    I went to some open houses for schools west of the park that have great reputations (and test scores) and I knew they wouldn’t be a good fit for my kid (even if we could get in) – too big, not diverse, people who didn’t seem to like out of boundary parents considering their neighborhood school, some principals that didn’t seem to like out of boundary parents considering their school, bad playground, the reasons are what they are – but fit it important.

    We applied to Haynes and Cap City and our 6 DCPS schools We hit the lottery and got into Hearst Elementary and love it.

    Good luck to all.

  • Anonymous

    Whats the word on Truesdell? I don’t have kids but its right around the block from me.

  • We are at West Education Campus which is on Farragut and 14th Street NW. Our twins have been there for 3 years (PS/PK/K) and we are enjoying our time there. This is not a drop your kid off and all will be perfect kind of school. It is a roll up your sleeves and find a way to get engaged kind of place. Alot of DCPS schools in our neighborhoods fall into this category.

    Test scores are on the rise, there is a new principal who is bringing in alot of supports and innovative partnerships, teachers who are good and committed to the school, more and more in boundary kids, an engaged, no drama PTA which encourages parent involvement. The early childhood program is strong and test scores are highest for the kids who started at West as 3 year olds and have stayed at West. It is a smallish school – 250 students – with one class per grade from K to 8 and two classes of PS and PK. An additional K class will be added in 2011/12.

    We looked at and got into several other charters in the lottery (Bridges, Apple Tree, DC Bilingual) but wanted a place we could commit to over the long term, was small enough that our investment would make a difference and where our kids would have a community.

  • Petworthian

    Anyone have kids at Powell or know much about it? We’re in bounds, have the idea that we’d like to try our neighborhood school, but that’s a few years off and just wondering if it’s a place on the rise, a good school to work with–we’d like to get involved, but have heard not everyone welcomes it. Thanks.

    • another mom

      We also live in-bounds for Powell and my son is eligible for the PS-3 class this fall. I love that Powell is Spanish immersion and (I’ve been told) uses a Tools of the Mind curriculum, but I generally haven’t heard great things about it and the student body is not diverse at all. Nevertheless, the school has tours every Tuesday — you just show up — and I’m going with 2 other moms next Tuesday. (I have heard great things about the principal, however, and it’s part of the cluster including Barnard [which is an East of the Park superstar] and West [a rising star].)

      Other than that, I’m applying to 3 charters and maybe will do the DCPS lottery for a couple of schools that offer immersion. Despite the happy “stay in DC” talk above, I think the odds of something working out are pretty small for us and we’d move to MoCo in the next year or so if we don’t get into one of our preferred schools.


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