With New Schools Will Come Boundary Changes

by ARLnow.com September 7, 2012 at 11:10 am 9,263 62 Comments

Arlington Public Schools is starting its community engagement process for upcoming changes to elementary school boundaries.

Boundary and admission policy changes will be necessary to relieve pressure at overcrowded schools once two new elementary schools and three new elementary school additions come online between 2014 and 2017. (A 225 seat addition at Ashlawn Elementary is expected to be complete by fall 2014, and a new 600-seat elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus is expected to be ready by fall 2015.)

Based on past experience, APS can expect parent opposition to some boundary changes. Perhaps with that in mind, the school system will kick off the discussion about boundaries and admissions at a meeting next week.

The meeting will be held at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12, in Room 101 of the Arlington Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street). At the meeting, the School Board will “review the current boundary policy, discuss the scope of the boundary changes to be considered, and give direction to staff to ensure communication with and feedback from the community.”

The School Board is expected to take action on new school boundaries in late February 2013, according to a “proposed boundary framework” presentation from earlier this summer. Planning for new middle school boundaries is expected to start during the 2014-2015 school year.

In addition to planning for boundary changes, the school system is also starting its design process for the Ashlawn addition and the new school at Williamsburg.

  • chris

    Why isn’t claremont school on the map?

    • Hank

      It’s an immersion school that accepts kids from all over the county.

      • Anon

        But ATS – which accepts kids throughout the county – is listed.

      • guessing

        I would guess Donaldson Run is an immersion school also

        • drax


          You are awarded one full FREDTERP.

        • Richard Cranium

          Immersion / submersion – same diff, no diff.

  • Crazy parents

    This is going to be fun to watch. If the transportation problems were the start of the fireworks, this should be the grand finale. I can’t wait!

    • yorktown

      I for one would’ve had real sympathy for school redistricting around here. And the school bus mess was clearly intended to further increase my sympathy for it. As in drive me to that point right quick.

      What I don’t appreciate is being yanked around and manipulated by the totally disruptive bus elimination in our neighborhood, and then being left to fret and stew and devote the last 3 plus weeks to having the nutty plan halted only to begin to figure out that Pat Murphy and the School Board have had their plan of action in place for what would appear to be quite a long time now and have simply not found it necessary to share.

      There’s what is what’s politely called “lack of transparency” and then there’s being disrespected and lied to by the folks being paid quite nice bucks to serve us. An antiquated notion and on these worthies need to be reminded of.

    • bigdaddyva

      Why do you think this is “fun?”

      Really? Fun?

  • Blue Triangle?

    What is that small blue triangle?

    Why is that separate area connected to Hoff-Boston when it is far away and Randolph is closer?

    It is the only area separated.

    • guessing

      Donaldson Run?

    • drax

      I think it’s part of Hoffman-Boston’s district. For some reason its not contiguous. There’s a high school district like that too.

      • Blue Triangle?

        that should be changed – if for nothing else than the bus issue. Why bus across the county when there is a school right next door.

      • Blue Triangle?

        It also seems like oakridge students are closer and should go to Hoff-Boston. Right?

        • southsider

          Hoffman-Boston is on the other side of 395 from the Oakridge neighborhoods, with no easy way to get from one side to the other.

          • APS

            Let the kids walk across.

          • Homeowner

            They could take the bus. Oh wait…

      • NauckNauck

        Perhaps it has something to do with Drew hosting a magnet public Montessori program, but also a traditional program that educates the kids who live in the surrounding neighborhood, Nauck? Perhaps there isn’t isn’t room to also teach kids living in that little Douglass Park triangle. The dividing line there is S. Walter Reed, which is the boundary between the two neighborhoods.

        • TCE

          The blue area is actually HB… it’s just that the Drew polygon is covering up the HB in parts… so in reality the Drew area is also part of HB. The schools person responsible for the map should have used a different fill symbol for the Drew school area. The HB should not look like it’s two different areas… it’s actually one large area.

          • NauckNauck

            Thanks for clarifying the map.

    • Overcrowding

      That area of Douglas Park was redesignated as Hoffman Boston due to overcrowding at Randolph.

  • DeportEmAll

    As a North Arlington homeowner, I fully understand why so many ESs in the northern part of the county are at max (or beyond max) capacity.

    But what’s up with Oakridge in the extreme south of the county? What produces its overcapacity situation, unlike other schools elsewhere in south Arlington?

    • Taylor

      My guess is that there’s a lot more students living in apartments & condos in Pentagon City/Crystal City than school planners had ever envisioned in the past, or that the school there was designed to accommodate.

      • And…

        Also, I live in the Aurora Hills/Arlington Ridge area which contains more single family homes that many in the north part of the county realize. 10 years ago it used to be all older, retired people, now the demographic has changed completely and we all have kids in elementary school and/or more on the way.

  • Regis

    Just moving the deck chairs around.

    • drax

      Not really.

  • SomeGuy

    Now if we could just get our county political map to have similar proportions of blue and red…

  • Homeowner

    If they would just allow for full family grandfathering, most of the opposition would melt away. While it might take a little longer to adjust the capacity, people are invested in their school communities and that’s part of what makes our schools so strong.

    • Richard Cranium

      What?!?!? BEGONE with your “common sense” and “rational” approach. That’s not the Arlington Way!

    • drax

      Somewhat – although it would still mean a child’s NEXT school might be different. And it could mean you have two kids of close age going to different schools. Not a slam dunk.

  • South Awwlington

    Any guesses on the comment count? It’s only a matter of time.

    • Homeowner


  • Kim Arl Un

    The schools should add overlay districts for the new schools similar to adding a new telephone area code overlay — the old district remains but a new one is set on top that may or may not match the old district. The new overlay districts could encompass a greater territory and then let the parents pick a school within the zone.

    • NauckNauck

      Interesting idea. What’s the purpose of giving parents a choice? To maintain a student’s connection to an existing school?

      • Homeowner

        Please don’t mention “school” and “choice” in the same sentence. It freaks out the thought police.

        • drax

          So how would a school choice system work? We give vouchers to 27,000 kids and thousands go off to private school – because there are thousands of empty desks at private schools just waiting to be filled, right?

    • drax

      What you’re basically advocating is grandfathering. Interesting idea, but then everyone could just choose their existing (overcrowded) school and leave the new one empty. The problem is that our schools are overcrowded now. Just shifting the new kids might not be enough.

    • Yes — Madison Community Center in upper 22207 is a former school, currently underutilized as a community center. Turn it back into a school immediately and siphon off the N. Arlington excess. I’m told this probably would have happened already if not for an adjacent dog park. My kids takes classes in trailers and have to wait in line to use a swing set on weekends in Arlington parks, while the County Board prioritizes dogs, backyard chickens, Artisphere money pits and 19th century forms of public transportation that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. There is no excuse for the current school overcrowding. I cannot fathom how newly built schools almost immediately exceed their capacity. Surely someone with half a brain can track birth rates among Arlington parents at regional hospitals and make a semi-accurate projection of future enrollment.

      • bigdaddyva

        Madison is not a good option. Too expensive to retrofit and it currently serves other purposes. Trailers are fine.

      • Josh S

        Madison is also remarkably small. Without renovation, it wouldn’t make a huge difference. (It is a really neat place, though – in part because it is so quiet.)

        “waiting in line to use a swing set” – that’s an amusing image and perhaps only a slight exaggeration…..Also, just be glad this isn’t Soviet Russia, where equipment swing *you*.

        Referring to buses as 19th century forms of public transportation gets you nothing. What, exactly, would a 21st century form of public transportation be? Hovercraft? MAGLEV train? Your rhetorical miscue is made worse by noting “hundreds of millions of dollars” as the cost of the bus. Again, I think this is only a slight exaggeration, but – are there cheaper 21st century options? Teleporting would possibly have a zero marginal cost, but I think it hasn’t been invented yet?

  • southarlington

    They just have to make changes and enforce them . THe parents that do not like them will have to move on or deal with it . No threatening to sue the school system like the past years that they tried to change boundaries. We all pay taxes and no group is better than the other …
    A parents choice is to give them a choice if they want Spanish Immerision, Science Foucus or Traditional mind you that is if you can get into the last two because you live outside their boundaries eventhough they are county wide programs…

    • VA Square

      Actually, my district is better than Donaldson Run

    • Arlington cat

      ATS is not a choice, it is a lottery. Get rid of ATS, it destroys communities.

      Abingdon, Drew, and Barrett would be a much better school for everyone if ATS didn’t exist.

      • Quoth the Raven

        Sorry you didn’t get into ATS!

      • JA4

        Then why are families all over Arlington transferring into Barrett?

  • Mary-Austin

    I still say Woodmont Center should be turned back into a school.
    It is pretty clear from looking at this map that the far northern parts of Arlington are where there needs to be more capacity.
    The current proposals put the new schools in the middle of the county. Doesn’t make sense.

  • Su Lee

    I am not very happy with my son at Barrett Elementary School. My son complains that he has nobody to play with as most of the kids speak spanish only and the other english speaking kids are playing together already. The school has very low SOL results even with Arlington County not to mention against other schools like Fairfax County Schools, namely Chesterbrook Elementary School just up the road. I made a mistake moving here. I didn’t think about the negative impact it would have on my childs education but I didn’t have a child when I moved here.

    I just called Chesterbrooke Elementary School off Kirby Road in McLean, VA to see if it were possible for my son, Alex to attend the school. As long as space is available a person living out of the county or outside their boundary within Fairfax County can pay an out-of-county tuition fee $9,854 year. There is no availability at the school as they have 680 students. Even if we move to Fairfax County the schools have a 2 year waitlist to attend the Fairfax Public Schools in McLean, VA.

    The school day ends at 3:10pm and the buses leave at 3:20 (all kids ride the bus, with only few exceptions walking with parents or riding their bikes and out of county residents). There is a 3 year waitlist to get on the afternoon extended day program. The 1st person on the list person has been on the waitlist for 25 months. There are 180 people on the wait list. Out of county residents that have children attend the school are never given preference over a Fairfax county resident who wants to enroll in morning or afternoon extended day care. The cost afternoon extended day is $325/month, $147/month for morning only extended day.

    Arlington provides good eduction at schools that have no capacity or terrible schools with plenty of capacity.

    I am so angry with the way the schools are managed. It is so terrible.

    • Pike Dweller

      “My son complains that he has nobody to play with as most of the kids speak spanish only and the other english speaking kids are playing together already.”

      This doesn’t sound like a problem with the school–it sounds like your son may be shy or has trouble making friends. There’s really no way to be sure that he’d do any better at another school. He might just be a shy kid. Lots of kids have trouble making friends in elementary school.

    • JA4

      Actually Barrett has very good SOL scores–above the star average, and there are lots of transfers into the school. And most of the kids do not speak Spanish. It’s more like 1/3.

      • Josh S

        And I’d like to add that SOL scores don’t mean squat.

    • drax

      Now you know how Spanish speaking kids in majority English speaking schools feel.

      Should we have Spanish only and English only schools? Or could your kid, like, learn a little of a foreign language, for free?

      • About Kids

        Seriously? I didn’t move my family to a foreign country and send my kid to public school to learn how to speak the native language. Why should he “know how Spanish speaking kids in majority English speaking schools feel.”? I attempted to send my son to Kindergarten at our public school. NONE of the other students in his class spoke English. The entire school (K-5) is only 33% English proficient. That means that while the other kids in the public school 8 miles up the street are learning how to read and write, my child will be held back in the class where they’re all learning how to speak English. The teacher even said there was nothing she could do. I doubt you would put your own child in that situation.

        There should not be separate schools; however, there should be preparatory classes specifically for non-English speaking children entering school. American families in low/middle class neighborhoods everywhere are affected by this issue because there are so many children entering schools that don’t speak any English. That’s the reason families that can afford to move to North Arlington are doing so, hence the over crowding.

        It is very common for foreigners to only speak their native language at home and leave it up to the public school to teach English. This is holding back all the other kids who already know how to speak English! I want my kid to learn a little reading and writing for free. Instead, I have to pay for private school or move to a different district. You obviously don’t have young children entering school or have a clue about what’s really going on in the schools today.

  • Mom in VA

    The overcrowding of Arlington Schools has been an issue for several years. A few years ago, the School Board tried to randomly change school boundaries, and a community uproar ensued. It is a tough issue, and the solution will be a complicated one.
    There is a great article in the latest issue of Arlington Magazine that talks about the overcrowding issue: “Bursting at the Seams” – check it out for some background info.

    • Not quite so…

      The SB’s attempt at redistricting a few years ago was definitely NOT random – A Committee was formed, they worked for many months in an ever-increasing contentious atmosphere and a committee consensus was eventually reached. The SB folded on the Committee’s recommendation because – just as you stated – the community uproar was deafening. Expect this exact same scenario once again when talk of boundary changes begin in earnest. Prediction – the SB will fold again – not one Board member is willing to incur the wrath of the folks north of route 50. It’ll never happen!
      I’m not a SB member basher – the boundary change fiasco is my one & only beef with the SB – I actually think that they do the best they can do and appreciate their service to the Arlington Community. (& yes – I do have kids & they do attend APS…)

      • Josh S

        Except if actual new schools do get built, then they sort of require boundary changes.

        And the uproar is equivalent to ripping a bandaid off. Yes, it hurts, but then it’s over.

  • The County Board had better get their priorities straight. In the past at least, highly educated, highly successful, HIGHLY PAID parents moved to Arlington because of the school system. Not, believe it or not, Artispheres, backyard chickens or the prospect of archaic 19th century transportation options on Columbia Pike. This overcrowding problem is easily solved. Take Madison Community Center and convert it to a magnet school, then siphon off excess students from all overcrowded schools. Yes, Arlington would lose a dog park, but upper 22207 can handle it. Mark my words, there will be a revenue and brain drain in Arlington if the Board keeps prioritizing pet projects over education. Yes, I realize there is a separate School Board but the County Board holds the purse strings and has leverage. The people want safe streets, good schools and nice parks. Stick to the basics and get it right. Until every last trailer classroom is removed from Arlington schools, all pet County Board projects should be put on hold.

  • southsider

    When they redistricted the south Arlington schools about 10 years ago, wasn’t Hoffman-Boston significantly under-enrolled then, too?

    Maybe they should consider turning Hoffman-Boston into another “choice school”- Science Focus South, or Arlington Traditional II.

    The school is physically located in a very small neighborhood off of Columbia Pike- right up against 395, the Washington Blvd exchange and the Army Navy Country Club. Since so much of the surrounding land is not develop-able (roads, country club), growth in this neighborhood is unlikely, so they will always be busing in students from other neighborhoods.

    If you are busing students to use the capacity, does it matter if you are busing students from Nauck (who live much closer to Drew) or from around the county to attend an exciting magnet program?


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