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The Right Note: School Boundaries and a Pool

by Mark Kelly November 16, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

This week ARLnow posted a letter to the editor on the ongoing school boundary discussions:

For full disclosure, our children have always attended South Arlington schools, and we currently have at least one child in elementary, middle, and high school. They ride a bus to elementary school and high school and are in the walk zone for middle school.

The author’s thesis seems to be that diversity in our schools should be given the highest priority. The author says it is “arguably best for the future of the entire school system, and in turn, the country.” Though nowhere does the author argue why other than calling it a “value” of the county.

I hope the underlying suggestion is not that if an Arlington school has more low income kids, by definition it offers an inferior educational experience? Lower incomes in a community could be a major factor in an area where a school district is relying on a limited tax base for funding, but it is certainly not for lack of financial resources here in Arlington.

If any school is not performing here, then there should be pressure on the school board, the superintendent, the principal, and the teachers to fix what’s going on at the school immediately.

The author does note that 55 percent of families with middle schoolers live in the walk zone. In the next paragraph, the author argues that this is a “small group,” a subset of Arlington that should not be allowed to use proximity to override diversity as a priority.

But it’s not a small group. It’s a majority of the families which is why the school board should give them a great deal of consideration when considering school boundaries. And many of them value their proximity to school, and it’s not a value limited to North Arlington.

School boundary decisions are never easy. Some families will be forced to move schools. There is no way to avoid it. But after reading this letter, it is still unclear why forcing more kids to move in the name of diversity would be best for our kids, Arlington’s school system, or “the country.”

While the School Board sorts through the landmines of the boundary issue, on November 28 the County Board will consider whether to award a $60 million contract for a new aquatics center.

The price tag is still high considering they could add an expanded pool facility onto the next high school or middle school building at a fraction of the cost. Maybe they could even set aside closeout funds the next two years to pay for it rather than borrow more money.

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