D.C. Opens 1st All-Boys High School

Reading, writing and arithmetic wasn’t all that was on the agenda for Absalom Bolling on the first day of school Monday.

The ninth-grader, sporting a navy blue blazer, dress shirt, purple and tan striped tie, tan slacks and black dress shoes, was chosen to introduce D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser during a press conference to celebrate the opening of the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Northeast, the city’s new all-boys public high school.

“I crushed it,” Bolling, 14, said of his public speaking performance, adding that he doesn’t mind being the face of the new high school. “It’s such a huge target on my back. That’s good for me.”

Principal Benjamin Williams praised Absalom, whom he predicted would be a valedictorian when the inaugural freshman class graduates in 2020. The school opens with 110 enrolled students — all 9th-graders — with that number planned to expand to 600 in the next three years as it adds a grade each of those years.

Williams’ message for the inaugural class: engrain yourself as a king representative of the school mascot, the lion monarch.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at the grand opening of the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Northeast, the city's first all-male high school, on Aug. 22.

Patricia Little

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at the grand opening of the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Northeast, the city’s first all-male high school, on Aug. 22.

“What we want to do is not only give them an opportunity to compete once they leave our doors, but also give them an opportunity to understand there are people in this city…that care,” said Williams, 36. “They can feel loved and they can have a loving environment where they feel they can excel.”

The building, which was formerly Ron Brown Middle School, reopened amid a still-underway $58 million renovation project. Students will use the first floor, with the second and third floors scheduled for completion by fall 2017 when the next group of students enroll.

The school, which opened as part of a $20 million city “Empowering Males of Color” program, was one of 104 D.C. public schools that opened its doors for nearly 50,000 students Monday, but the only all-male high school in the city and one of few nationwide.

Officials opened the new school opened to help boost achievement gaps. According to a district brochure, males of color graduated at a 57 percent rate compared to 71 percent rate among other students.

Tony D. Johnson, state director for career and technical education in the superintendent’s office, said the school day begins at 7:45 a.m. until 3:15 p.m., but many stay until 5 p.m. for extracurricular and academic activities. Each student must wear a dress shirt, tie, suit jacket and khaki pants every day.

“Unfortunately, we have not done a great job in raising young Black males,” said Johnson, who added that officials with Urban Prep Academies in Chicago helped consult the city in the school’s opening. “We kind of see this like a fraternity to help each other. We see this as a positive experience for our young men.”

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