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Part 2: Borderstan Families Talk About Kids in the City

by Borderstan.com — October 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm 2 Comments

"Borderstan""Borderstan Families", Borderstan, Luis Gomez Photos

From left: Jim, Cristina, Bryan and Kathy. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Ashley Lusk. Check out Ashley’s blog Metropoetrylis and find her on Twitter at @arlusk. You can email her at [email protected].

Author’s Note: Yesterday, we shared the first part of our interview with two DC families about raising kids in the neighborhood — Jim and Kathy have two young adults in college, and Bryan and Cristina have a son in primary school. Jim and Kathy live in Dupont-Logan while Bryan and Cristina live near the U Street corridor.

Understanding that DC is frequently at unrest with the politics of its school system, the question seems obvious: Did you send your kids to DC public schools?

The couples explained why they sent their kids to private schools. Jim and Kathy’s kids attended the Washington International School, largely to continue the experience their children gained while living abroad (the family spent five years abroad before returning to Dupont-Logan). Bryan and Cristina continue a family tradition in sending their son Brendan to a parochial school.

  • Kathy: Everyone we know in our neighborhood went to private schools. Schools were a factor for folks to move to the suburbs.
  • Jim: [But], people work hard to make [DC Public Schools] good. The larger community supports the schools.

Lusk: So then in what way do you feel connected to the city?

  • Jim: One draw for us is the politics. Our family feels very engaged; we’ve volunteered for many campaigns and our kids enjoy that.
  • Cristina: To be able to talk about the history of our neighborhood — to walk past Duke Ellington’s house, to talk about what he became, to talk about the Underground Railroad in a place that makes sense to a kid…
  • Bryan: We live in a neighborhood older than the state I grew up in (Wisconsin).
  • Kathy: It’s vital — the city is vital.

Lusk: What perceptions do they have about life outside DC?

  • Jim: They have friends from Bethesda, Arlington, so they venture out into the suburbs to visit their friends. They don’t like it [in the suburbs].
  • Kathy nods in agreement, “[Our son] characterizes the people he’s sees there. Spoiled, popped collar, rich suburban kids. That’s just his perception.”
  • Cristina, “In our home, we have a lot of DC-related artwork and Brendan has asked… why the diamond is missing a chunk. So we explained it to him and he has a strong opinion about it.”
  • Bryan (turning to his son): “Brendan, what should Virginia do with Arlington?”
  • Brendan: “Give it back [to DC].”

Author’s note: I had a chance to catch up with Jim and Kathy’s kids, Jennie and Matt, a few days after talking to their parents.

Lusk: Growing up in Dupont-Logan, what did you do? What were your favorite places to go… to eat?

  • Jennie: There is shopping in Georgetown, you hang out by the waterfront. The Phillips Collection is great. You can eat at places like Sticky Rice, Hank’s [Oyster Bar], Café Saint-Ex…
  • Matt: I agree, Georgetown is a good place to go. I like the National History Museum and the Air and Space Museum. Ben’s Chili Bowl is always good.

Lusk: How did growing up in DC affect your decisions as young adults?

  • Jennie: Of course you absorb the politics. I appreciate DC more now that I’m older. Having grown up in a city, I needed to choose a university in an urban area.
  • Matt: I feel like we’re more informed [about politics] than the general public. It affects your friend circles because you want to talk with people about these things you know. It affected my decision to have a minor in political science.
  • Jennie: Growing up in a city made me feel as though I could pack up and live pretty much anywhere, so I think it does make you braver in that sense.

Jennie and Matt both confirm that they’re not opposed to returning to DC as adults. And if they do return, they both decided they’d look to Dupont Circle or Adams Morgan neighborhoods as a new place to call home.

We know that the Borderstan area only represents a small portion of DC. We are also aware that the two couples we interviewed have resources and education that many of our neighbors only dream about having — which gave them more options for schools and opportunities (a fact they all recognize). Still, we are glad to see a sense of community thriving here. We hope it serves as a clear invitation for our younger and more recently arrived residents to stay awhile in the city, in our neighborhood.

"Borderstan""Borderstan Families", Logan Circle, Luis Gomez Photos

Kathy and Jim (left) raised their kids in the Logan Circle area. Now Bryan and Cristina are raising their son near the U Street corridor. Both could have left the neighborhood or the city, but chose to stay. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Comments (2)

  1. Borderstan & Ashley thanks for this piece. The DC Public School (DCPS) system is the most challenging aspect of raising a kid in the city. For me and my family, private school is not an option financially. So for the past two years we have been navigating the often confusing DCPS. The good news is that there are some decent public schools in DC. There are also some very good public schools and some very bad public schools.
    We are lucky to live “in-boundary” of good gradeschool. Last year our daughter went to preschool at West Education Campus (14th & Farragut NW). It was a VERY good experience. This year we were offered and accepted a spot in Pre-kindergarten at Washington Yu Ying DC Public Charter School. The primary reason for the move was that Yu Ying plans to go thru 12th grade, West only goes through 8th. Plus the unique Chinese language immersion offered there.
    I have some ADVICE for parents (or would-be parents) who live in-boundary with a bad grade school.
    1) Do your homework figure out which schools you are interested, compare test scores, commute time etc.
    2) Apply to more than one! You get to choose 3 or 4 public schools and 3 or 4 charter schools. The odds are you will get one of your choices.
    3) MAKE WEST EDCUCATION CAMPUS one of your public school choices. – It is a good school with low enrollment!!!
    http://www.westschool.org/

  2. Thanks for the feedback.

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