By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, jwright@afro.com

One of the District of Columbia’s middle schools is a powerful example of the demographic changes taking place in much of the city.

Henry Brown Floyd MacFarland Middle School, with grades 6-8, is located in the gentrifying Petworth neighborhood on the southern end of Ward 4. The school had a predominant Latino enrollment during the 2017-2018 academic year, with 87 percent and Black students made up only 13 percent.

MacFarland Middle School is unique in D.C. because it is currently majority Latino and used to be predominantly Black. (Courtesy Photo)

However, the principal, Mark Sanders, told the AFRO that MacFarland’s make-up is subject to change due to the $63 million modernization highlighted by its ribbon cutting Aug. 20. “Last year, we were working with a smaller building,” Sanders said. “Now we will be able to accommodate more students to come to MacFarland.”

Sanders couldn’t quote exact racial statistics because students were still being enrolled. Nevertheless, he said that Black students were welcomed at the school despite its growing Latino population due to its successful dual Spanish language program where English and Spanish is taught in various subjects.

Sanders said there are some Black students in the dual language enrollment program.

MacFarland is noteworthy because it was founded in 1925 as a Whites-only school. It remained White majority until the late 1960s when African Americans began to move into Petworth and surrounding neighborhoods and by 1980 it was a predominantly Black school with a sprinkling of Latinos.

In 1990, U.S. census data reveals that Petworth was 88 percent Black and six percent White and Latino. In 2010, though, Petworth’s Black population had dropped to 57 percent while it’s White and Latino population increased 15 and 26 percent, respectively. MacFarland is next to Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School, which is 54 percent Black, 46 percent Latino and one percent White.

At the ribbon cutting, D.C. Councilmember Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4) beamed as he toured the building with his staff, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), community leaders and students. Todd told the AFRO he was aware of MacFarland’s changing demographics over the decades and isn’t worried about it. “I am very pleased that Ward 4 has the largest number of Latino residents in the city,” Todd said. “This underscores that Ward 4 is for everyone and this school is for Blacks, Whites, Hispanics and Asians. What we would like to happen is when students finish MacFarland; they will go to Roosevelt where they will continue to get a quality education.”

Sanders noted during his remarks at the ribbon cutting that MacFarland is the only bi-lingual middle school in the city and that has some worried that Black students’ academic needs will be ignored. However, Mary Diatta, a Senegal native who has a son enrolled at MacFarland, told the AFRO she isn’t concerned.

“I have no problem with the school,” Diatta said. “To me, I think it is important that everything is equal. The children, regardless of whether they are Black or Latino, should learn the same thing.”

Sanders said students, regardless of race, will be educated by the District’s school system curriculum. “All of our sixth graders will take science and there are no academic tracks,” he said. “All students will adhere to the rigorous standards and they will take math and English language arts together.”