First Day for New MacArthur High School Is Historic

The club sign-up tables were out on the wide entrance sidewalk, as teachers, school administrators, Principal Harold McCray, Jr. and DC Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee were on hand to greet many of the 250 enrolled students and their parents or guardians during Saturday’s open house for the new MacArthur High School at 4530 MacArthur Blvd. NW. 

Students came to pick up their high school schedules and see their brand new classrooms, library and cafeteria, gym and science facilities laid out fresh and sparkling in the renovated buildings on the former Georgetown Day School campus.

Everyone seemed excited. Everyone knows this day was historic. For the first time since 1972, an entirely new comprehensive public high school was opened — the first for the Palisades/Georgetown area since Western High School was replaced by Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the 1970s.

“The wait is over,” tweeted several MacArthur supporters over the week about the very first day of school on August 28.

Now, Georgetown area teenagers have a public high school of their own. They knew as they signed up that they and the newly assembled faculty and staff would be setting traditions that would be the basis of the school legacy for decades to come.

It already started with the student-community selection of the name. First introduced as a temporary moniker just to locate it, summer surveys showed strong support for the name McArthur High School as a permanent one. That was quickly followed by a consensus that the wooly “Mammoth” should be the school’s mascot (maybe because it was different — not a big cat like other high schools in the area) and had some alliteration, McCray said with a smile, adding they chose navy blue and teal as the school colors on every new student’s t-shirt with school mascots and logos as they signed up.

“The bonding as the historic first class at MacArthur has already started,” McCray declared.

“I am really excited about these students,” Athletic Director Kenneth Watson said. “They already are showing they’re open to new things, innovators willing to try new ways of doing things. They’re already ahead of the crowd.”

All eighth-grade graduates of Hardy Middle School had automatic transfer to MacArthur — and most all did, some 200. Those who decided not to mainly were staying with siblings at other high schools or getting into established varsity sports, McCray noted.

Everything will be start-up, of course, at the new school. Several competitive sports teams will be developed, including soccer, volleyball, cross country, basketball and potentially golf.  The academic curriculum emphasizes English, mathematics, social studies and science. After surveys, the top three “world languages” students wanted were Spanish, Italian and Chinese.

Students and teachers at MacArthur will also be beneficiaries of state-of-the-art equipment and facilities and inclusive curriculum. All students will be enrolled in either pre-Advanced Placement, AP or Honors classes. The emphasis in all the courses — combined with the centralized spacious library filled with computer and learning specialists — will be on how to find and use resources and to develop research and study skills for life-long learning and particularly for college and advanced education completion.

The large airy and light-filled cafeteria will be open to all students for breakfast, one period of lunch (where everyone can sit together if they wish or go out to the campus fields) and take-home supper items. Home room periods and study hall are included almost daily; general physical education and wellness courses take place in two different periods twice a week. Two periods of music and a musical production are planned for the first year. A theater arts department is being developed.

“We expect to add 200 students or so a year until we reach about 800,” McCray said. “This year’s group of 50 sophomores will be our first graduates.”

A lot of MacArthur High School offerings and practices will develop over time. Public transportation systems will be tested. About 70 percent of students indicated they plan to take existing public busses and they will be monitored to see if adequate or a special school bus routes will need to be developed.

All the unknowns were almost part of the excitement for the years ahead. Still, one thing was and is clear: The opening of MacArthur High School is a historic event for the city and the surrounding neighborhoods, including Georgetown.

The new MacArthur High School at 4530 MacArthur Blvd. NW. consists of renovated buildings on the former Georgetown Day School campus. Georgetowner photo.


History and social sciences teacher Drew Grover’s classroom is ready to go. Georgetowner photo.


A world map of adventure features an airplane named for New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Georgetowner photo.


Math teacher, Ms. Pasqual, is ready for the first day. Georgetowner photo.


The chemistry classroom looks out on the MacArthur playing field. Georgetowner photo.

For more information about MacArthur High School go here



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