After sitting empty for three years, the former GDS lower middle school campus on MacArthur Boulevard reopened as MacArthur High School (MHS) on Aug. 28. MHS is the first addition to the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) High School system in approximately 50 years. It was purchased to help with over-enrollment of high schoolers in DCPS.
DCPS bought the MacArthur campus for 45.3 million dollars in March of 2021. Harold McCray was selected by a panel led by Chancellor of the DCPS system, Dr. Lewis Ferebee, to be the school’s founding principal. McCray previously worked as a resident principal at a school in Prince George’s County. MacArthur currently has 256 students: 200 ninth-graders and 56 tenth-graders. McCray said the school is expected to have approximately 850 students, including ninth- through twelfth-graders, at full capacity. The school has yet to determine a final name.
GDS owned the MacArthur campus from 1965 through 2020, when it officially sold the campus to DCPS. Before being sold to DCPS, it was sold to an unidentified buyer who ended up backing out. In 1987, GDS bought the current high school on Davenport Street for students in grades nine through twelve, while the MacArthur location was for students in pre-K through eighth grade. In the fall of 2020, the LMS moved to Davenport and the MacArthur campus closed its doors.
“A lot of principals never get the opportunity to open up a brand new school,” McCray said. “This is a once in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I could not refuse it.”
McCray said that there are plans to expand the current campus and modernize its existing spaces, and DCPS has set aside a 77 million-dollar budget. A new cafeteria has recently been constructed and it can hold up to 230 students.
MacArthur is enrolling students from Hardy Middle School, Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, Alice Deal Middle School and Jackson-Reed High School in order to reduce overcrowding at Jackson-Reed. Students who live in D.C. but do not attend Hardy, Oyster-Adams, Deal or Jackson-Reed can apply to MacArthur through the My School DC Lottery program, which is an online lottery application website.
Since MacArthur enrolls students from throughout the District, neighbors of the school brought up the issue of transportation because they wanted to ensure that there would not be school-related traffic. However, according to McCray, the majority of students take the Metrobus, which has several stops near the campus.
Cole Tyler, a ninth-grader at MacArthur, was accepted to MacArthur through the My School DC Lottery program. He came from the Sojourner Truth School, a small middle and high school in Northeast D.C.
Ninth grader Julia said that while she generally likes the MacArthur campus, she wishes “it was closer to shops so that we could have an off-campus lunch.” Her friend Vera, who is also in ninth grade, added that she wants “more spaces for students to hang out in the mornings that aren’t the cafeteria.” Julia and Vera declined to share their last names with the Bit.
MacArthur is currently using just the top two floors of the school for the ninth and tenth grade. There are two separate basement areas that are not in use at the moment. The first and second floors will open once enrollment increases and the school is completely upgraded.