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Results from the first round of the common lottery reveal huge demand for some DCPS preschool programs, while others in the District drew few applications.

Six DCPS preschool programs, mostly in affluent neighborhoods in Northwest or on Capitol Hill, have over 300 names on their waiting lists, and 7 more have over 200 names. But 7 other programs, all but one in Wards 7 or 8, still have 70% or more of their seats available. Results for all schools can be viewed on the DCPS website.

The preschool programs, some of which start at age 3 and others at age 4, are mostly in DCPS neighborhood schools. But residents are not guaranteed a slot, as they are at kindergarten and above. Many applied for slots through this year’s common lottery, My School DC.



In addition to DCPS preschool seats, the lottery is allocating seats for those seeking admission to DCPS’s application-only schools and most of the District’s charter schools. Students who want to attend DCPS schools as out-of-boundary students also entered the lottery.

Results from the first round of the lottery were released on March 31, and families had until May 1 to accept a space at the schools their children were matched with. A second round is open to those who missed the first round or who weren’t matched with any of their choices. The deadline for entering the second round is May 15.

Some charter schools have waiting lists of hundreds of names, with Two Rivers topping the list at over 1700. While none of the DCPS preschool programs have lists that size, they’re long enough to be discouraging to many who applied.

Schools with the longest lists

The longest of the lists is at Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan, which received 756 applications for 60 PK3 slots and has a waiting list of 348. Under the lottery, only applicants who ranked a school higher than the schools they were matched with are put on its waiting list.

The school with the second-longest waiting list was School-Within-School, which has a program based on the child-centered Reggio Emilia approach. The school, located at 920 F Street NE, received 564 applications for 30 slots and has 325 names on its waiting list.

Most schools give a preschool preference to neighborhood residents, but both Capitol Hill Montessori and School-Within-School are city-wide programs, giving preferences only to siblings of enrolled or matched students.

At most neighborhood schools, students who are in-boundary and have a sibling already enrolled at the school get top preference. Next comes those who are in-boundary and have a sibling matched at the same time, followed by those who are merely in-boundary.

Out-of boundary students with siblings already enrolled or matched get a weaker preference, as do students who live near the school but aren’t within its catchment area.

In-boundary families wait-listed

All the neighborhood schools with long waiting lists wait-listed at least some in-boundary applicants, meaning that no out-of-boundary applicants were accepted.

Of the schools with over 300 names on their lists, Janney Elementary, where the preschool program begins at age 4, has the most in-boundary applicants waiting to get in: 29. Janney, which is in Tenleytown, received 600 applications for its 78 slots and has a total of 316 names on its list.

Other schools with over 300 wait-listed applicants are Brent (321, 14 in-boundary) and Peabody (313, 19 in-boundary), both on Capitol Hill.

Oyster-Adams, a bilingual school in Woodley Park, had two separate lotteries for its PK4 program, one for English-language-dominant children and the other for Spanish-dominant. For English-dominant applicants, the waiting list has 335 names, while for Spanish-dominant there are 48.

The school has 9 slots for English-dominant children and 23 for Spanish-dominant. It received 494 applications for its English-dominant program and 95 for its Spanish-dominant one.

The 7 schools with waiting lists over 200 are Eaton in Cleveland Park (279), Key in Palisades (208), Lafayette in Chevy Chase DC (218), Mann in AU Park (219), Maury in Capitol Hill (212), Ross in Dupont Circle (276), and Stoddert in Glover Park (209). Of those, the school with the most in-boundary wait-listed applicants is Stoddert, with 31.

Schools with many available seats

At the other end of the spectrum are the schools that have filled 30% or less of their available seats. Malcolm X@Green filled only 4 of its 30 available seats, or 13%. Malcolm X, in Ward 8, was on a list of schools that Chancellor Kaya Henderson proposed to close in 2012. Instead, DCPS entered into a partnership with Achievement Prep Public Charter School, which has agreed to run the school for DCPS beginning next year.

Other schools with at least 70% of their preschool seats still available are Browne in Ward 5; Aiton and Smothers in Ward 7; and Hendley, Ketcham, and King in Ward 8.

It’s often said that District residents now have universal access to preschool, but the imbalance in the lottery results suggests that there’s a geographic mismatch between supply and demand.

Of course, the lottery results for DCPS schools don’t take account of the students in charter preschool programs, which draw many children in Wards 7 and 8 and may account for the apparent lack of demand there. But it seems unlikely that many of the parents on long waiting lists in Northwest or Capitol Hill will decide to enroll their children in DCPS preschools in Wards 7 or 8.

Are you on a DCPS preschool waiting list? What are your options, and how do you feel about the situation? Let us know in the comments.

An earlier version of the headline for this story incorrectly said that 14 preschools had waiting lists of over 200.

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Natalie Wexler blogs at DC Eduphile and is a contributor to the Washington Post. She serves on the boards of DC Scholars Public Charter School and The Writing Revolution and chairs the DC Regional Leadership Council of the Urban Teacher Center. She has also been a volunteer tutor in reading and writing in DC Public Schools.