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Borderstan Schools: Navigating the DC Public School Lottery

From Allison Acosta. Email her at allison[AT]borderstan.com.

"Ross School"

Ross Elementary School on the 1700 block of R Street NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

DC Public Schools (DCPS) opened the annual Preschool/Pre-Kindergarten and Out-Of-Boundary lottery application on January 28th. Parents have until February 25 to consider the options and narrow their choices down to six programs. DC Public Charter Schools operate their own lotteries that are separate from the DCPS lottery. This year, most charter schools have an application deadline of March 15.

Parents of young children who will be age 3 or 4 by October 2013 must apply to the Preschool/PreK lottery if they wish to enroll their children in DCPS. Although many Preschool and PreK spots are available, children are not guaranteed access to these programs.

If you have a child Kindergarten age (5) or older, you are guaranteed enrollment at your local DCPS. Borderstan residents are zoned for one of the following DC Public Elementary Schools: Cleveland, Francis-Stevens, Garrison, Marie Reed, Ross, Seaton or Thomson. If you wish to enroll your child at a school other than the one you are assigned, you can apply to the Out-Of-Boundary Lottery.

The DCPS lottery application allows you to choose up to six school programs, ranked in order of your preference. Some schools offer two programs; for example Marie Reed and Cleveland offer both dual language Spanish/English and English-only programs. Each program counts as one of your six lottery choices. If your child wins a spot at a school, he or she will be waitlisted at any school you ranked higher on your list, but not at schools you ranked lower.

In order to help you decide which six programs to list on your lottery application, you may want to start asking your friends, neighbors, and even strangers on the playground where their children go to school and what they see as the school’s strengths and weaknesses. You can find demographic information, test scores, and more on the DCPS school profiles website which allows you to sort by grade level, location, and special programs. The website www.greatschools.org also has school profiles for DCPS, public charter schools, and private schools.

As you contemplate which schools to put on your DCPS lottery application, you may want to consider the chances of winning a spot at that school. The DCPS lottery gives preference to children who live in-boundary (for Preschool and Pre-K), for children who have a sibling at the school, and for children who live within a “reasonable walking distance” (within a 3,000 foot square) of the school. Past lottery results can be a helpful guide, as some of the most sought after schools rarely admit students from out-of-bounds.

Open Houses

Once you have narrowed down your choices, most schools offer open houses where you can meet the principal and get a walk-through of the school. Below is a list of the upcoming open houses for Borderstan’s schools:

  • Cleveland: February 13 at 9 am; and April 17 at 9 am.
  • Francis-Stevens: February 7 at 8:30 am; February 12 at 8:30 am; February 16 at 10 am; February 21 at 8:30 am.
  • Garrison: February 2 at 9 am; February 5 at 9 am; and February 19 at 7:30 am.
  • Marie Reed: March 30 at 9 am.
  • Ross: February 22 am time TBD; and March 15 am time TBD.
  • Seaton: March 31 time TBD; and March 6 time TBD.
  • Thomson: February 7 at 9:30 am; and March 21 at 9:30 am.

The lottery results will be posted online March 8, and you will be able to access your results with the number you receive when you submit your application. With large numbers of parents entering the lottery for six DCPS and several charter schools, expect wait lists to move significantly over the summer and into the beginning of the next school year.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 15 posts on Borderstan.

Acosta was born and raised in Washington, DC and has lived in Borderstan since 2000. After working in the labor movement for more than a decade, she is enjoying the pace of life as a stay-at-home mom to her two young daughters. When she’s not busy walking her daughter to and from school or on the hunt for vintage items to sell online, Acosta enjoys exploring the city with her kids and taking photographs. You can find her on instagram. Email her at allison[AT]borderstan.com.

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