City Cast

What Goes Into Building a New DC High School

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on August 11
An ad for MacArthur High School on Metrobus.

An ad for MacArthur High School on Metrobus. (Priyanka Tilve/City Cast DC)

This fall, D.C. will open its first new neighborhood high school in decades. Harold McCray, the new principal of MacArthur High School in Ward 3, shared how you set up a new school — from the traditions to the courses.

How do you choose the mascot and colors for a new school?

“When I first got started, I went on a promotional tour to different students. I would always ask them, what [do] you want as a school mascot and for your school colors. Then, we put those answers into a survey and sent it out to students and families. So the official colors are navy blue and teal, and they have chosen the mammoth as a mascot.”

MacArthur High School

MacArthur High School (DCPS)

Will the curriculum be different from other D.C. high schools?

“I wanted to cater towards the community and the needs of the students to make sure that they were not only going to get into college, but prepare them to actually get through college and graduate. So, something that is different is we have no general education courses. Everything will either be an honors course, a pre-AP course, or an advanced placement course.”

What are the pros and cons you see for students starting at MacArthur?

“I do see the distance as a con for students who don't live within walking distance. Having a 40 to 50-minute bus ride can be daunting. But I also see it as an opportunity because you're actually getting to go to a high school that's unique.

"A pro is that we’re starting from the ground up. It's offering the highest set of courses that you can offer in a much smaller setting. They actually have the opportunity to develop some of the clubs and activities. Also, the traditions that would already be in place at other high schools, these kids get to start here.”

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