Arlington Public Schools is preparing to redraw boundaries for a half-dozen schools to relieve high enrollment and over-capacity at three of them.
The boundary process, which will go into effect next fall, is “limited in scope” and will target Abingdon Elementary School, Gunston Middle School and Wakefield High School.
“The boundary process will bring enrollment at these three schools to more manageable levels for the 2022-23 school year by re-assigning some planning units to neighboring schools with capacity to accommodate additional students,” APS said in a School Talk update to parents last week.
For each school, staff will focus on planning units where neither school is in walking distance, according to APS’s 2021 boundary process webpage.
APS says it will move some planning units from Abingdon to Drew Elementary School, which is two miles away. As of Sept. 30, Abingdon has 688 students and a projected capacity utilization rate of 119%, compared to the 433 students and use rate of 76% at Drew.
This direct step to balance enrollment comes on the heels of a less successful attempt to alleviate the overcrowding without redrawing boundaries. During the 2020-21 school year, APS set up a program encouraging families zoned for Abingdon to choose to send their children to Drew, with transportation provided.
Only 12 students took the “targeted transfer” option. School Board members said a dozen students would not make a dent in the schools’ enrollment imbalance and predicted the need for a boundary process.
“[The option] did not come out with numbers that were able to solve the problem,” Board Member Monique O’Grady said during an Aug. 26 School Board meeting. “I did want to point out that we have given the community the choice to go to what I think is a phenomenal school. After trying that, I think we’re at a different point in time, where we maybe need to take more intentional action.”
The renewed focus on Abingdon and Drew also comes three years after another boundary process that would have moved students at both Abingdon and Henry elementary schools to Drew proved controversial.
Some Gunston planning units will be moved to to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, but current Gunston students will not be affected. Gunston has 1,109 students and a projected capacity rate of 112%, compared to Jefferson’s 849 students and 101% use rate.
APS intends to move some planning units from Wakefield to Washington-Liberty High School, but the moves will not impact current Wakefield students. Enrollment and capacity rate margins are closer for the schools: 2,241 versus 2,174 students, and 108% versus 102%, respectively.
APS says the move will also make better use of the additional 500 or so seats at the former Arlington Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street), which is set to open September 2022.
Despite the limited success of targeted transfers at the elementary level, APS plans to offer them so that current Wakefield students can opt to attend W-L next fall.
During the same August meeting, Executive Director of Planning and Evaluation Lisa Stengle said APS is offering the option because she’s “not sure moving ninth graders will be enough” to balance out Wakefield’s rising enrollment.
“With boundaries we want to be cautious, because we may have to come back and make changes in the future, and we don’t want to have to redo things,” Stengle said. “This way, it’s a choice.”
Community engagement sessions on the boundary process will begin with a virtual meeting on Saturday, Oct. 16. Engagement will run through the end of October.
Superintendent Francisco Durán will propose a more detailed plan during a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 16. Two weeks later, on Tuesday, Nov. 30, there will be a public hearing. The School Board is expected to vote on his proposal on Thursday, Dec. 2.
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Arlington and its neighbors have become more segregated in the last 10 years while fair housing legislation at the state level faces significant roadblocks. Arlington’s fair housing enforcement, education, and commitment to equity practices in housing policy and programs are beginning to show signs of improvement but much more needs to be done.
Join the NAACP Arlington Branch, HOME of Virginia, and Equal Rights Center for the 2nd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference on April 15th to discuss the threats and opportunities to advancing fair housing policy across the state and within Arlington.
The half-day, in-person event will feature speakers from fair housing advocacy organizations and government agencies including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and focus on fair housing policy trends in Virginia and Arlington County. The conference aims to advance the understanding of issues and policies related to equity and affirmatively further fair housing among local officials, advocates, and members of the public.
2nd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference
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WHS Spring Festival
Join us at the WHS Spring Festival on April 22, 2023, from 10am- 3pm at Wakefield High School(main parking lot). Come out to shop, play, and eat!
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