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Proposed School Boundary Changes Get Heated Reaction from North Arlington

Proposal aims to accomodate new school in Williamsburg and alleviate overcrowding.

A few hundred North Arlington parents filled the Williamsburg Middle School gym Wednesday night, many of them frustrated with proposed boundary changes that will be made to accommodate a new elementary school.

That school, which will be on the Williamsburg campus, is just one part of a larger plan Arlington Public Schools is trying to implement to deal with soaring student enrollment and, in some cases, severe overcrowding issues.

The new school will draw from areas currently within the boundaries of Jamestown, Nottingham and Taylor elementary schools. But much of Arlington north of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor will see elementary school boundaries change to make way for the new school — and to alleviate some of the overcrowding.

While some parents and neighborhood groups supported the working recommendation — or a slight variation of it — many in the Donaldson Run community and the neighborhoods on the edges of the current Glebe Elementary School attendance zone were not happy.

"This is a numbers game, but it's not thoughtful about the neighborhoods," said Russ Williams, whose child goes to Glebe. "And a lot of what's being talked about is ripping up neighborhoods."

Several residents complained that they felt the school system was pitting neighbor versus neighbor. Patch interviewed a number of residents who declined to give their name precisely because they didn't want to upset their neighbors — or, in some cases, the school board.

One man said he uprooted his family to move to Arlington so his children could attend Glebe Elementary, a half-mile from their home. He said the people in the auditorium Wednesday night had made long-term plans for their lives and that they were troubled the school system was unable to make such plans.

"I thought I was pretty safe moving a half-mile from the school," he said.

John Chadwick, director of design and construction for Arlington Public Schools, said part of the problem is that Arlington apparently woke up in the 1950s and realized it needed to build more elementary schools — and did so all along the edges of the county. Such a configuration means that boundaries would have to turn inward.

"We don't have (schools) where we would have them if we were going to do this logically," he said.

Residents said they were angry because the school system wasn't taking a holistic approach, and that too many students who can walk to school currently would be forced to ride a bus two or three miles under the potential changes. They said they wanted their children to be able to go to school with the neighborhood kids they are friends with, play sports with, are in Boy Scouts with or have backyard barbecues with.

Some parents were upset that Arlington's so-called choice schools — in this case, Arlington Traditional and Arlington Science Focus — weren't a part of the equation. School officials said they may enter into the conversation in upcoming years.

Lionel White, the school system's director of facilities planning, said he would pore over the comments made Wednesday and try to have a second variation online by the week's end.

"If we can make tweaks, and they make sense, and they make people happy, then we'll do it," he said.

Superintendent Pat Murphy will then hold a town hall with the three recommended plans — the original one and two variants — in mid-March, and he'll likely take the matter before the school board on March 21.

John Crouch February 28, 2013 at 10:24 PM
Our neighborhood has come up with a counterproposal that puts people closer to their schools, reduces busing, balances capacity better, and fixes the most widespread complaints about the current official proposals, including borders between Jamestown/Taylor, Glebe/Taylor, and Glebe/Ashlawn. It's at https://www.facebook.com/notes/john-crouch/our-proposal-for-school-boundaries-variation-2-by-esther-lehman/10151765284472787
Beth Lawton (Editor) March 01, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Thanks, John!
Mark Lewin March 01, 2013 at 04:25 PM
The "counterproposal" has several key flaws: - Moves 5 planning units (1609, 1501,1502,1410,1411) to avoid moving three (1510,1591,1513) - Does nothing to address the Jamestown/Taylor boundary concern, as claimed above - The already-proposed variation avoids moving 1510 and 1591 wihtout moving 1609, 1501, 1410, or 1411 - So the only additional achievement of the "counterprposal" over the "variation" would be to avoid moving 1513 (which only has approx. 10 students), at the cost of moving 1609, 1501, 1401, and 1411 Clearly the "counterproposal" causes far more disruption for limited benefit. Why should 4 planning units move so that one doesn't have to?
Rebecca March 01, 2013 at 04:41 PM
John - Your response is the most rational I've heard. I hope the powers that be are listening.
Mark Lewin March 01, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Also if you don't move any planning units on the east side into Jamestown, it leaves Jamestown under capacity, unless you also adjust the boundaries for the new school from what they are in the current proposals.
Tara March 01, 2013 at 04:59 PM
John, I agree with Rebecca, your response is the most rational. Thanks for sharing.
Matt March 01, 2013 at 05:57 PM
Yes - but notice how the author here fails to mention the number of students relocated under this new "proposal" as compared to ones developed by APS. This strikes me as a last ditch attempt by a vocal, yet very small minority to protect themselves at the expense of disrupting a far greater number of families.
liz March 01, 2013 at 06:17 PM
If you guys do not like the way this is going then think about all of this when you are voting in the fall ....stop voting for the same people if they are not listening to what you are saying ...I also agree why the heck aren't ATS and Science Foucus on this round of boundary changes they need to be ? Are those schools better then everyone else ? Or is the school board to worried about the ramifications from these schools to put this in this round ?
Mark Lewin March 01, 2013 at 08:07 PM
I have looked at this proposal more closely and realized that I had somewhat misinterpreted it - actually, it doesn't move 1609, which is probably in consideration of its recent move from Tuckahoe to Glebe. I also confirmed again that it has no impact on the proposed Jamestown/Taylor boundary whatsoever. There is only one positive thing that it does that the current APS variation does not, and that is to allow the projected 11 students of planning unit 1513 to remain at Glebe. In the APS Variation, 1502 already moves to McKinley to accommodate 1510/1591 remaining at Glebe. This proposal would also require 1501, 1410, and 1411 - a total of 81 students - to move. In short, this proposal only benefits planning unit 1513, one of the smallest planning units in the entire county. The bottom line is that everyone likes their current schools, and no one wants to move - we all have our reasons. Our schools to a large degree are our communities, no matter what the physical distance is from our homes. You cannot reasonably claim that your reasons for wanting to stay at Glebe are any more legitimate than our reasons for wanting to stay at McKinley, and it is concerning that you would ask over seven times as many students to move to acheive your goals. You also do this while falsely bringing 1510/1591 into your argument when there is a way to accommodate their concerns with far less disruption, and even insinuating that 2302/2303 would be helped when they would not.
Jen March 01, 2013 at 08:14 PM
I believe the bottom line with the plan discussed above moves 81 children from Glebe and McKinley to keep 11 where they are now at Glebe.
Rebecca March 01, 2013 at 08:28 PM
Actually, by moving 1502 and 1501 together, they are sending two planning units together. That makes the transition a little easier.
Laura Walton Crouch March 01, 2013 at 10:28 PM
By the same logic Rebecca above used, consider putting 1513 with the new 1510 -- to keep a neighborhood together. After 2015, I think the APS spreadsheet has 1513 with fewer than 10 students -- negligible in the scheme of things -- but by putting together with 1510 keeps a neighborhood intact.
Beth Lawton (Editor) March 20, 2013 at 04:22 PM
We have an early release of Pat Murphy's recommendations ("variation 2") on the school boundaries. More on who's moving from what schools is here: http://arlington-va.patch.com/articles/superintendent-s-boundary-recommendation-moves-900-north-arlington-students

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