Thirteen DCPS preschools have waiting lists of over 200

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.

Photo of sad child from Shutterstock.

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.

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. 


Add a comment »

Great post, thanks for writing. I am one of the in-boundary, on-waitlist parents. We live 1.5 blocks from Maury, and were very much looking forward to participating in that school and community. I think we are #13 on the in-bounds waitlist, which means it is unlikely our son will get to go there this fall.

We were matched with a spot at Payne Elementary, which is about 8 blocks from us, not unwalkable, but if you've ever tried walking with a tired three year old, you can understand the appeal of the closer school. When matched with Payne, we had strong reservations since 1) one of their students (Relisha Rudd) was likely murdered this past year 2) It is the in-bounds school for the family homeless shelter (though I now know it doesn't have the highest percentage of homeless students thanks to GGE), and 3) the quality of the facility is significantly lower than many of the modernized schools.

However, after talking with many other parents, I realized we were lucky to get matched to anything at all, especially a school we can walk to since many students didn't get matched with anything remotely close to them. Payne will also get an $18 million renovation this summer, and if the quality is the same as other recent renovations, it should turn a new page for the school.

This entire school lottery business is new territory for our family, and I understand why DCPS does it. However, the uncertainty and angst it causes is significant.

by Will on May 12, 2014 2:57 pm • linkreport

It would be great if you'd post a list of all the schools with open seats. I believe Savoy has some, and it is very close to a metro (with good bus connections from Capitol Hill, too!) and has an arts focus. It could be a good choice for families waitlisted elsewhere.

Now that Appletree is taking people from their waitlist for their Southwest location, I imagine there will be some movement on Amidon-Bowen's waitlist, which was not very long to begin with. That would be another good Round 2 pick for families in Capitol Hill.

by sbc on May 12, 2014 4:40 pm • linkreport

sbc - I don't have a list of all the schools with open seats, but you can search for specific schools on the DCPS website:

by Natalie Wexler on May 12, 2014 5:33 pm • linkreport

Powell at PK3 has 40 inboundary students waitlisted.

by Andy on May 12, 2014 5:43 pm • linkreport

Andy - You're right! That's for the Powell Dual Language program. I must have just looked at Powell Elementary (non-dual-language), which begins at Kindergarten. Interesting that it has so many in-boundary names on the waitlist, because the total number of waitlisted applicants is below 200 (it's 148).

by Natalie Wexler on May 12, 2014 10:02 pm • linkreport

Any reason why Oyster has 9 seats for English-dominant PK-4 and 23 for Spanish-dominant?

by Ed on May 13, 2014 10:04 am • linkreport

We are going to our in-boundary school, which is one of the 40 lowest-performing schools in DCPS. Our waitlist numbers at other schools are terrible, our highest around 400, so it is clear that we only got into Cooke because of our in-boundary preference. I do think this is the fairest way to allocate seats, but it is hard when you get a bad lottery number.

I do think DCPS does PK3 and PK4 very well, even at schools that are otherwise failing. We are going to try it out. I don't think that we would stay past PK4 unless things change a lot. If we need to, we will move in-boundary for another school starting in K.

by rrm on May 13, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

We are in-bound for Brent and have twins who just turned 3 yesterday. Brent was our #1 choice on the lottery for both children. Our son was matched; our daughter was waitlisted #1. Doesn't seem so bad until you realize that last year they only took around 10 off the waitlist and this year, the conventional wisdom is that it will be even fewer. While we are grateful that he was matched at all and she has a low waitlist number, it would have been far better for the lottery computer matching logic to recognize siblings of the same age so as not to have them end up with disparate lottery results. We did get a call that she was selected off the waitlist at Appletree SW, and we made the decision to enroll her just so she has a slot somewhere. It's crazy and is causing a level of anxiety that wouldn't be there if they had both just been waitlisted sequentially at Brent. We didn't consciously choose to separate our twins and I think separating them in preschool may be a bit premature...Access to your IB preschool should be no different than access to your IB K-12. This is insane.

by Karen on May 13, 2014 11:02 am • linkreport

We got in to Logan and waitlisted at SWS. Excited for Logan and have been very impressed with the teachers and other parents at the events we have been to.

I'm glad to see JO Wilson has a decent sized waitlist. That isn't very diverse at the present but its a beautiful facility and we know a few people with children in the school (and they have positive things to say...) As long as folks from the neighborhood put/keep their children in there it should be great.

by h st ll on May 13, 2014 12:58 pm • linkreport


PS is different than K-12, like it or not. As a fellow Brent parent, I would advise that you go speak with the school's admission staff and thereafter keep in frequent (and polite but concerned) contact. Things tend to shake out over the summer and it would not be at all surprising that at least two or three spaces open up. Schools do have some flexibility in terms of holding back spots for NCLB or SpEd transfers. As I recall, there was a family woth multiples in a similar position past year. Good luck.

by BrentParent on May 13, 2014 2:02 pm • linkreport

Parents should also look at prek3 and prek4 programs that operate within a child care center. They often provide the same curriculum as dcps and dcpcs programs. Other benefits include, smaller class size, fewer days off, and full year programs.

by Dominique on May 13, 2014 2:22 pm • linkreport

Child care centers and private preschools are not inexpensive options so that cannot always the answer to this dilemma, nor should it be if you are a resident of the District. We understand that preschool placement operates under diffent business rules than K-12 at present. All I am asking is why that is. Much of this hoopla (and angst) over the lottery could be minimized in theory if the rules for K-12 applied to preschool as well. Word on the street is that Brent may not even make it to to #4 or #5 on the waitlist this year...that's 14 inbound families left in limbo, not just us.

by Karen on May 13, 2014 4:08 pm • linkreport

I wanted to let anyone know who is reading this that Sela PCS in Ward 4 has seats available for Prek4 (as of 5/14/14). In fact, the school cut off date was extended to Decemeber 31st for incoming Prek4 students so it may be a good fit for your little one who is turning 4 this fall. I am on the school board there and know all of us are happy to speak with any interested family! Feel free to contact the school at If you put in your email you'd like to speak with a parent or board member, our staff will get you connected to the right people. We also host tours several times a week. We invite you to see our warm, inviting space, amazing student art gallery, and meet our teachers and school leaders.

by jennifer on May 14, 2014 10:45 am • linkreport

@Jennifer - do you know whether Sela will offer PK3 next year? Thanks.

by rrm on May 14, 2014 10:59 am • linkreport

@rrm - while Sela won't have PreK3 next year, we are welcoming students who are three in the fall with a birthday on or before 12/31/14. PreK3 is part of our long-term goal, though!

by jennifer on May 14, 2014 12:22 pm • linkreport

Hi Karen,
DC runs a universal prek for all program. The prek3 and prek4 programs in the childcare centers are free and only for DC residents. I am a Program Coordinator at Jubilee Jumpstart. We are a NAEYC accredited bilingual program in Adams Morgan. You can view our website at I know the system is tough to navigate and seemingly unfair at times. I hope parents know all their options and figure out what works best for their child and not just what's popular.

by Dominique on May 14, 2014 3:14 pm • linkreport

I know this an older post but...what would happen is all the kids from the nice homes went to the "bad" schools? All of a sudden, the demographics of the school change...there's some integration.

Just writing that makes me think of the African American students that were first to integrate in schools in the south. Here, there are no spiteful people chanting against you and calling you names, but "certain people" have decided that being on a waiting list with no real shot of getting into a school is much better than sending your child to a school that has African Americans in it. Way to go Caucasians of DC, way to go.

by StringsAttached on Jul 18, 2014 3:23 pm • linkreport

Wow! Families have a vast array of reasons to not send their children to School X or Y...assuming it is mainly racially motivated is not only outrageous and offensive, it completely misses the point of having a neighborhood school that is easily accessible. I am personally stretched to get both of my kids to where they need to be that day and get to work before 9 am...driving across town in any direction is simply not an option for me unless I quit my job.

by Karen on Jul 18, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

Although I wholeheartedly agree that there are vast reasons, I reject the assertions that it's not mainly racially motivated.

If you don't believe me, research the push to get the Van Ness Elementary School reopened or re-read this article where they refer to "Capitol Hill". Ward 7 and 8 are close enough to "Capitol Hill" to alleviate the issues you're referring to.

by StringsAttached on Jul 18, 2014 4:05 pm • linkreport

Wrong again...not if you work in Falls Church, which I happen to do. Your whole assertion is inflammatory and promotes division. I would no sooner drag my kids across the Anacostia than across Rock Creek Park while still trying to hold down a job. For me, this is just as much about logistics and neighborhood schools as it is about anything else. The people who live in the Navy Yard area make up a sufficient enough population that they shouldn't have to drive by Van Ness to take their kids to Amidon or someplace even farther any more than I should have to drive by Brent to take mine to Maury, for instance. No assertations about the quality of any of the aforementioned schools...given a choice, I would never choose a longer commute to anywhere for just about anything...there are only so many hours in a given day.

by Karen on Jul 18, 2014 8:13 pm • linkreport

With all due respect, Karen, of course I cannot argue against your personal situation. No one knows your struggles better than you do. However, your situation is an exception to the overall reason why there are pre-k programs with large waiting lists while others have space available. We could argue back and forth ad infinitum about the reasons why certain schools have available seats while others have two or three hundred kids waiting but at the end of the day, one reason will beat out the other and of course I believe by reason would receive an overwhelming majority of votes. Well, that is if people want to be honest.

by StringsAttached on Jul 19, 2014 1:36 pm • linkreport


Careful. This isn't 1960. I am black and perusing for good schools too. Where did race enter this conversation but within the confines of your own subjective conscious? Some of us, yes even those not-all-poor blacks, want good schools near their not-all-poor-blacks homes too. However, I do accept and support the lottery because, again, this isn't 1960. In London, there are subsidized project buildings directly across from the financial center. Rich kids and poor school together. It's just progressive. Not the same as being hosed for being black and educated... Again, careful. ;)

by SubjectiveMuch on Apr 20, 2016 3:11 pm • linkreport

A direct quote from the story, "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." IF you know DC; REALLY know DC, then you can read between the lines.

by StringsAtrached on Apr 21, 2016 9:23 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.