As traditional school began for thousands of District students, the city also opened its first all boys’ school, the Ron Brown College Preparatory School. According to officials, the academic year will include unique educational concepts and the modernization of one of the city’s oldest high schools.

The Ron Brown College Preparatory School is the District’s only public all-male academy.  (Twitter Photo)

The Ron Brown College Preparatory School is the
District’s only public all-male academy. (Twitter Photo)

Classes for D.C’s traditional school students began on Aug. 22. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) was present at the formal opening of the all-male Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Ward 7 along with D.C. Chancellor Kaya Henderson, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), and D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large). Also present were Ron Brown Prep’s Principal Benjamin Williams and 30 other community leaders and residents.

The all-male school is just one program in a 48,000-student school system that is going through a systemic change.

“This school year will be another year of opportunities for our young people to expand their learning, see the world and prepare for college and beyond,” Henderson, who will leave her job in October, said. “Whether that’s the young men at Ron Brown College Preparatory High School making history as the first class of a new school, or students at Anacostia High School getting a head start on a law enforcement career.”

The students at the Ron Brown School are all ninth graders. According to officials, another high school grade will be added each year until 2020. The ninth graders who began school Aug. 22 are set to be the first graduating class at the high school in 2020. Williams identifies his students as ‘kings” and has high expectations for his charges. “For me, this school is the achievement of a lifelong dream,” he said. “Eventually this school will have 600 kings in it and the people who work here care about our youth.”

At the opening ceremony, ninth grader Absalom Bolling introduced the mayor to the audience. Absalom comes from a family of secure financial means and could have gone to any other all-male private school in the District, such as St. Albans or DeMatha but he chose Ron Brown. “I chose this school because I want to be around other young men who are in an empowering environment,” Absalom told the AFRO.

While the Ron Brown School has gotten the lion’s share of attention there are other innovative programs starting in D.C. schools this year. The $140 million modernized Theodore Roosevelt High School in Ward 4 had a pre-first day of school ceremony on Aug. 19, with the mayor noting that for the first time in 25 years, students will be able to enter the school through its front entrance. “Ward 4 neighbors have been looking forward to the opening of the reimagined Theodore Roosevelt High School for quite some time,” Bowser said. “I am proud to deliver a neighborhood school that will provide a quality education option for families for many years to come.”

Roosevelt was founded in 1932 and the modernization was the first massive renovation for the building. Mary Lord, an at-large member of the D.C. State Board of Education, told the AFRO that the Roosevelt’s modernization was “long overdue.”

“This is a beautiful and great D.C. public school,” Lord said. “This is an example of what can happen when the community and the school system work together for the best interests of the children.”

The Public Safety Academy, located at Anacostia High School in Ward 8, is the product of a partnership with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. When a student completes the academy, they will have admission preference for training as a cadet at the D.C. police academy.

H.D. Woodson, located in Ward 7 and targeted as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) school, started its IT and engineering academies to equip students for high-wage, high-need careers, Henderson said. “We have high-tech jobs here in the District of Columbia but we need students to be equipped to get those jobs,” she said.

Roosevelt, McFarland Middle School in Ward 4 and Houston Elementary School in Ward 7 began dual-language programs where students will receive instruction in English and Spanish. Henderson also said that teachers will continue to be monitored and evaluated according to the Learning Together to Advance Our Practice Program (LEAP) that stresses constant professional feedback by school principals and other educators.