DC Public School Unveils Middle Grades Plan for Ward 5

3/7/2012, 10:39 a.m.

Options Include Standalone School, Two New Programs at Existing Schools

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) will offer compelling new programs for middle grades at three Ward 5 schools, including a stand-alone Arts Integration and World Language middle school at Brookland; an International Baccalaureate program at Browne Education Campus; and a middle school Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) integration program at McKinley, DCPS officials announced March 6 at a Ward 5 community meeting.

The announcement, which followed months of community visioning and feedback meetings as part of the Ward 5 Great Schools Initiative, also included proposed grade configurations for these schools and other Ward 5 schools that either feed into these schools or accept their students at the high school level.

A total of 1,180 middle school seats will be available through these three options that cover neighborhoods in the northern, central and southern parts of Ward 5.

"When families in Ward 5 demanded better educational options for their children at the middle school level, we listened and responded with rigorous and compelling programs that will prepare students for success in high school and beyond," DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson said. "I am excited by the portfolio of middle grade programs that we designed with the input of the community and expect Ward 5 families to agree and respond by filling the seats we're creating."

In surveys conducted during fall 2011, most Ward 5 families and community members signaled a preference for a standalone middle school (38 percent of about 800 respondents); 29 percent preferred a preschool to Grade 8 education campus; and 24 percent preferred a grades 6-12 program. Families also emphasized a need for more rigorous academic curriculum and a variety of compelling middle grade options.

Currently, middle grades in Ward 5 are served by seven education campuses. To maximize the resources needed to provide a quality education in an education campus, ideally, schools should have a minimum 300 middle school students in each site (or a total 2,100 students for the current Ward 5 configuration). Ward 5 middle grade programs currently enroll 790, a shortfall of 1,310 students.

Those numbers, combined with community preferences, led to a proposal in November to create a portfolio of one education campus, a middle grades program at McKinley Technology, and a standalone middle school for a total 1,180 quality middle school seats for the 2013-2014 school year. Over the past three months, DCPS officials have worked with Ward 5 families and community members to determine a final plan for school sites, grade configurations, feeder patterns, and programming for these options.

That plan includes the following: Brookland Middle SchoolA standalone Brookland Middle School would cover the northern portion of Ward 5, offer 500 middle grade seats and feature arts integration and world languages programs. In an arts integration programs, teachers weave the arts into lesson plans; schools host at least two guest artists or performances a year; students present what they learn in at least two public showcases; and half of the teachers participate in artist-in-residence programs each year.