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APS Holding First Boundary Change Meeting Tonight

by Katie Pyzyk September 12, 2012 at 3:45 pm 7,050 60 Comments

The 2012-2013 school year is a big one for Arlington Public Schools, as it takes on the task of changing school boundaries and admissions policies. The first opportunity for the public to get involved is at a School Board work session tonight (Wednesday).

At the meeting, the School Board will review the current boundary policy and discuss the scope of the boundary changes to be considered. The work session will take place in room 101 of the Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street) at 7:45 p.m.

The public is allowed to attend but not offer comments at the work session, which is considered a preliminary meeting to figure out the direction the boundary process will take in the coming months. Public engagement sessions will officially kick off late next month. At that time, residents may raise concerns and offer suggestions for boundary issues requiring further examination.

“We’re very interested in being transparent and engaged with the community in this process. We want people to be engaged because boundary changes will be a part of our future for many years,” said APS Director of Facilities Planning Alison Denton. “We want to establish a process that works and that is transparent.”

Policy requires this process for projects listed in the proposed APS Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) presented by Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy in May. The $538 million CIP includes funding for two new elementary schools and additions to three others to address the school system’s capacity issues.

“We’re seeing an influx of students to the point where we’re running out of space, especially at the elementary level,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

In preparation for the new schools and new additions, new school boundaries must be decided upon to better distribute students in the most overcrowded areas, such as the northwest portion of the county.

“This is just the beginning discussion. We don’t know yet how large the boundaries are going to be or how small they’re going to be,” Bellavia said.

So far, there’s no firm timetable for having a boundary plan completed. It could be finished by the end of this school year, but that’s still up in the air and should be discussed at tonight’s work session, according to Denton.

Another part of the overall planning process involves designing the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School, scheduled for completion in 2014, and a new elementary school at the Williamsburg Middle School site, scheduled to open for the 2015-2016 school year. The Building Level Planning Committees (BLPC), which consist of parents, teachers, civic association representatives, APS staff and county staff, began developing designs for the two projects last week. Although preliminary renderings were already devised during feasibility studies last year, they will be scrapped and new designs will be drawn from scratch.

“We need to look at the overarching plan and then start talking specifically about the first decision, which is developing a new neighborhood school boundary for the Williamsburg site,” Denton said.

While determining boundaries, it will also be decided whether certain students will get grandfathered in so they don’t have to switch schools for just one year. Denton said that decision ultimately is made by the School Board, and tends to differ in each boundary situation. In the case of the new Williamsburg school, however, new boundaries aren’t simply needed for easing crowding like at other schools; it’s also a matter of filling classrooms. That may mean less wiggle room with allowing students to remain at their current schools.

“Williamsburg requires boundary changes because we don’t have a community for that school. We need to draw a boundary or we won’t be able to send anyone to school there in 2015,” Denton said. “We have to balance the needs of the kids and not wanting to move them for the last year of school, but at the same time we need to fill the seats. We will always look at that as part of the boundary decision.”

Although boundary changes can sometimes prove contentious, Denton believes parents will see the benefits of the outcome and will respond positively in the end.

“I think people are really excited about improving their schools and building a new school,” said Denton.

The 10 year CIP introduced earlier this year was a first for APS; previously a CIP was devised every two years. However, the new CIP does allow for re-examining projects and capacity needs every two years.

  • Green?

    Why is there a green shade option on the map if no green is on the map?

    • emanon

      something to strive for?

  • John Fontain

    About 3 years from now when the boundaries get changed, you’ll hear a bunch of people complaining on this site about how they got no advance notice that a process was undertaken to review boundaries.

    • J


    • drax


    • Steamboat Willie

      JF again complaining about complaining. But this time it hasn’t even happened yet. Brilliant!

      • darsasx

        you DO understand there is a difference between a complaint and a prediction, right? JF didn’t complain about anything – he merely (correctly) predicted the outrage that will occur.

        • drax

          Well, he’s also complaining about it. But so am I, because he’s right. Happens every time.

  • DarkHeart

    This is going to be ugly.

    • EFC Observer

      Protective glass may be needed to separate the audience from the SB & staff at this one.

  • Mother of Geek

    My middle-school-aged son is fascinated by this issue and spent the entire summer poring over county maps and school statistics. He worked up a proposal for redrawing the boundaries and submitted it to the School Board. 😀 So far, no response, LOL.

    • DarkHeart

      I wouldn’t give out his name. The torches and pitchforks of South McLean will descend upon your house before you can say Tuckahoe.

  • dk (not DK)

    I can’t imagine why grandfathering would even be considered for the new Williamsburg elementary school. Since the boundaries are geographic, there will be no splitting of siblings, and whole neighborhoods will move together. Yes, some of your child’s school friends will end up at another school, but some of them will end up in the same school, too. And fifth graders are perfectly capable of handling the tragedy of moving to a school for just one year. ~eyeroll~

    • PL25rd

      My daughter will likely wind up at the new Williamsburg Elementary School for fifth grade. She’s in second now at Nottingham, and Williamsburg will be a lot closer to our house. But I have no problem with it – after all, she’ll be right next door at Williamsburg Middle the following year!

  • Look, I have no kids and couldn’t care less about schools (maybe in a few years). But as a middle class denizen almost my entire net worth comes from my home. If a redistricting would put my house outside of Long Branch or W-L (I wouldn’t mind if T-J gets redistricted to South Arlington only) I could stand to lose tens of thousands of dollars.

    It’s a big deal.

    • Josh S

      In today’s snarky vernacular — selfish much?

      • CW

        Josh, I usually agree with you, but that’s really an asinine thing to say. So you really wouldn’t mind if your biggest investment lost maybe 10% overnight? I think it’s crazy the hoops that people jump through over schools around here (considering that ALL of them are excellent by national standards), but the influence of school zoning on real estate prices is huge, made all the more clear during the buying/selling process.

        • Josh S

          I won’t deny that it’s a big deal.

          However, unless the property is truly purchased as an investment, I personally believe that the true value of the property is as a home. I don’t understand people who buy a house/condo/etc and the day they move in are already thinking about selling it. Isn’t a home something that one owns indefinitely? And there are so many factors that affect a home’s sales price – nearby schools being just one. These factors are incredibly difficult to predict years ahead of time. So, in the end, to fret about school redistricting and how it may or may not affect your own home’s sales price at some future date rather than thinking about the redistricting issue in terms of its place as part of efforts to manage the local school system seems very selfish to me.

          • CW

            D.C.’s population is by nature often transient; that is exacerbated by the fact that many professionals are using D.C. as safe haven for jobs while the rest of the country is in a recession. Moreover, D.C. also has lots of young professionals who pay for “starter homes” what would buy you a mansion anywhere else, and they fully intend to trade up in 5-10 years.

            Additionally, in today’s volatile political and economic climate, people are wise to consider their escape plans if things go bad (job loss, etc.).

            This is not the 1950’s where people are planning to settle down in their first home, raise their 2 kids, and grow old there. Your sentiments do not reflect the socioeconomic realities of the place and time in which we live.

        • John Fontain

          I agree with Josh S. Maintenance of property values should receive zero consideration when it comes to determining school boundaries.

      • drax

        All he said was it’s a big deal. He didn’t complain.


      • WBurgFam

        It is a big deal if you live near the current Williamsburg Middle School where the traffic is currently gridlocked during the start/end of school and learn that they are putting a school there, that the zoning requires 625 parking spaces be created at the site, that a parking deck is out, that there has been no traffic study, and that they are paring down the ball fields and may cut down the trees that buffer the fields from the neighborhood. Property values will be affected, and not for the better.

        • Mom

          There was a traffic study last May. I know because my husband was interviewed and I participated via email.

          I think another study going on now too.

    • dk (not DK)

      Since the most overcrowded schools are in North Arlington, could TJ really be redistricted to South only? Call me crazy, but isn’t it more likely that there will be even more North Arlington neighborhoods assigned there than there are now?

      Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I TJ is a fine school.

    • gymmyray

      Heads will roll….

    • Kony Thornheiser

      What if the opposite happened and enrollment went down, and some schools had to be closed, but not the one near your house? Investments go up AND down.

    • Not so fast my friend…

      I wouldn’t worry so much about Long Branch. At the worst, you’d probably get redistricted to Patrick Henry, which wouldn’t affect your property value much at all. W-L to Wakefield should be your concern. That would be bad for you.

  • Chicken Little

    And, we will have to endure another round of bus route angst.

    In my neighborhood, people are complaining that high school kids must walk down a busy street with no side walk. OMG, there is a quieter street with sidewalks one block over — about 100 feet away.

  • Arlingtonian

    This again? This has been going on since before my now-7th grader was in kindergarten.

  • Future

    APS needs to look down the road or they will be scrambling again in 4-6 years as these kids reach middle school.

    • SoArl

      I know – focusing on only elementary schools makes absolutely no sense. Are they hoping parents will just get fed up by 5th grade and send their kids to private school?

      • Sam

        They are beginning to focus on middle schools. That’s one of the objectives for this year – you can find it all on the APS capacity website. The information below is from a slide in one of the last presentations delivered.

        Upcoming Planning Timeline
        • 2012‐13
        – Determine boundaries for new elem school at
        – Consider program for new choice elementary school
        – Develop middle and high school capacity options
        (including site identification)
        – High school boundaries

        • emanon

          They are focused on the middle schools now? what about the high schools? My oldest daughter’s class was the first oversized class at Tuckahoe, and she is now in 9th grade. the classes that follow just get bigger and bigger. Of course, the APS mentality seems to be that they can just stick trailers there for 5 or 10 years, and no one will notice until the trailers are virtually uninhabitable due to mold and mildew.

  • Grandfathering options

    Denton’s point about the need to fill the school is valid, but the whole process would be a whole lot calmer if kids were grandfathered. Just don’t provide transportation to kids who remain in their old schools. The new school may not be full up for a year or two as a result of grandfathering, but parents who care about class size will hopefully see the value in moving their kids sooner, rather than later.

  • Arlingtonian

    Assuming there is a committee of 30-50 people to include parents “input” as well as teachers, admin, and school board, they will be gridlocked and nothing much will happen, as usual. No worries. Inertia is very powerful.

  • gymmyray

    Lets just keep putting up trailers at the present elementary schools because home values are far more important than the quality of a child’s education.

  • Can we be honest here

    The most important boundary affecting the quality of the schools is the Rio Grande. Go ahead and say I’m being harsh, but saying you disagree doesn’t count for squat, unless you bought a home near Hoffman-Boston and you could well afford to live in the Nottingham/Yorktown pyramid.

    • DeportEmAll

      Hey, you can’t write the truth so openly and boldly. This is Arlington!

  • Future

    So, did anyone attend the no-comments-allowed work session?

  • JMB

    Given that the map shows almost every district projected to be at full capacity, or way above it, by 2012, it’s hard to see how redistricting is going to help.

    • darsasx

      It’s the first principle of government – when you don’t have a clue what to do, you re-shuffle the deck chairs on the titanic to make it appear that you are at least doing SOMETHING.

      • drax

        That’s the first principle of whining about government too.

    • emanon

      The redistricting is related to the fact that they are planning to expand existing elementary schools and open new ones — not somehow fit the kids within the existing infrastructure. And the APS “rule” is that they don’t move the same kid too many times within any given school type (ie, they don’t redistrict you to 3 different elementary schools int he 6 years you are an elementary school student). Given the timeline of construction of additions and new schools, that will prove to be a challenge with respect to some of the youngest kids int he system now or in the next year or so.

  • Realistic

    Can’t wait to see the petitions start to fly and the N. Arlington mom’s take to the various media outlets around the area decrying how their elementary aged child will be irreparably be harmed by these changes coming.

  • Anon

    So….we all know this will never happen, but…..

    The map pretty clearly indicates that ATS should move to the Hoffman-Boston building and the Hoffman-Boston district re-distributed. ATS is a county-wide program so no one can justifiably whine about a change in their neighborhood school for ATS. Hoffman-Boston consistently failed to meet annal yearly progress (no longer a legal issue since Virginia got a waiver….but that doesn’t mean the school is better now, just that we don’t know….). Hoffman-Boston is way under-utilized and redistricting that school is the best opportunity to improve the achievement of the individual students.

  • South Awwlington

    Predicting months of entertainment from this. Engage Psycho Parents.

  • South Awwlington

    Stupid Question of the Day:

    If our schools are splitting at the seams with students and have been for years, why are we (Arlington County) pushing to build more “family friendly” housing accommodations?

    In one breath, you’d swear you heard that families were extinct in Arlington, replaced with latte sipping DINKS and Trust fund babies. The next breath describes the perennial school capacity issue, exacerbated by parents and the “at any cost” risks taken to get their kids into APS (reference the allegations of out of state students using Arlington mailing addresses to attend school here.)

    Personally, I would like to see more neighborhood elementary schools added around the County and the consolidation of Middle and High School operations on one, centrally located campus.

    I do understand the importance of having a Science/Math focused school as well as Montessouri style schools to complement the traditional learning environment often found in neighborhood schools. What I don’t understand is the dedication of resources (APS owned buildings) to several other types of “Choice” ahem, Charter schools.

    Then again, this is Arlington. Block scheduling is controversial.

    • drax

      IS the county pushing for more family-friendly housing?

      • South Awwlington

        County staff noted the lack of larger apartment/condos (3+BRs). Large scale renovations in several older Garden Style Apartments are adding third bedrooms to address the “problem.”

        Families are good for neighborhoods, I don’t think anyone will argue. But aren’t we just adding to the overcrowding problem in schools if we continue to add housing stock that will attract our neighbors from Alexandria, FFX, etc.

        This situation is a clear example of “victims of our own success.” Unfortunately, we only have 26 sq miles and not everyone can live here.

        • emanon

          The County and APS are two different entities. The County does what it does without any regard for how it might (negatively or positively) impact the schools. Not that I’m blaming the County. The schools sits there and says, “oh my God, we had no idea this was happening. How can there possibly be so many kids in XXXX school?” Duh. As I’ve said many times before… it’s not like the hundreds of McMansions being built were being sold to empty nesters. Anyone paying attention to the construction in the area could be predicting population trends. Just because the are sipping lattes doesn’t mean the 20-somethings won’t eventually turn into parents of 2 to 4 kids.

    • Sam

      All those latte sipping 20 year olds who bought condos in the R-B corridor in the early 2000’s are now mid-30 year old parents who sold their condos for a nice profit and live in the more suburban part of the county with their 2 kids.

      I agree with you – we need more neighborhood schools; enough with the charter/choice schools.

      • SoArl

        I don’t understand what doing away with the choice schools would do for the overall crowding problem. These schools are full, too. Even if you make them neighborbood schools, there are still the same number of total seats in the county.

    • Josh S

      There are no charter schools in Arlington.

      • South Awwlington

        Clearly the sarcasm was lost on you: “What I don’t understand is the dedication of resources (APS owned buildings) to several other types of “Choice” ahem, Charter schools.”

  • southarlington

    The Hoffman- Boston issue came up at the last Boundary Change meetings and the ATS parents did not want there kids riding the bus to ” South Arlington” and the pricipal at Hoffman Boston did not want ATS part of their school !!!! Just a little info about that issue. I agree with moving it that makes a lot of sense but that is when lawsuit against the county started being threatend….maybe things will change this time around …and the Board knows that ATS can not hold things up this time around .

    • other side of the river

      Since Murphy seems to be immune to public criticism (as evidenced by his long publicity campaign about transportation changes), this is the perfect time for him to punt ATS south to H-B.

      Bonus points if he can get Wilson upped to a full-time school at the same time.

      Both should buy him a couple more years on his contract.

      • dk (not DK)

        Agreed. This is one time where his typical ham-fisted approach is probably the right way to go. There is no making everyone happy, there will be uproar regardless of what changes are made, and there are no “right” answers. So just do it.

        H-B Woodlawn should be relocated as well.

  • southarlington

    Why should HB Woodlawn be re-located they are in there own space yes it somewhat overcrowded but why should they move and where too ?

    • Arlington Parent

      HB Woodlawn could move back to Hoffman Boston which used to be a High school and I think is where HBW used to be a few decades ago. Hoffman Boston is really ill-suited as an elementary school given the lockers which younger kids can’t reach/don’t need and other spaces that don’t make sense for K-5.

      The current HBW facility could be used as another middle or high school to alleviate the upcoming wave of elementary kids that APS is trying to address with the construction in N.Arl.

  • bigdaddyva

    Does anyone know about some “grassroots” effort to convert the new Williamsburg ES building into a Grade 4-5 only building? The Jamestown PTA e-mail mentions this as some new idea. What I can’t tell is whether that’s someone on the PTA inflating the interest in their own idea or if it’s for real.


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