Two weeks before it decides who will attend the new Douglass Elementary School in Leesburg next fall, the Loudoun School Board tonight will review a revised staff plan for attendance at all nine elementaries affected.
At a public work session last night, the staff reviewed suggestions to modify preliminary proposals that establish Douglass boundaries.
They include a plan that divides just one neighborhood into the split elementary-age attendance areas that parents dread. School planners and parent groups say the sprawling Potomac Station subdivision is too large to fit in any one zone, and it would remain divided.
Both an amended staff plan and a community plan called “Bergel by Request,” formerly known as CL05, allow the Lakes at Red Rock (LRR) subdivision east of Leesburg to stay together and attend the new Douglass elementary school, then continue to the same middle and high schools as a “single feeder.”
“We’re happy to see the School Board listened and kept our neighborhood together,” said LRR resident Shannon Stone.
The plan proposed by School Board member Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin) also preserves Beacon Hill in northwest Leesburg as a single feeder to Catoctin Elementary and keeps River Creek subdivision at Frances Hazel Reed (FHR) Elementary, also as a single feeder to Heritage High School.
Some parents turned a critical eye on the numbers at FHR, saying that school remains too crowded under both those plans.
And to keep LRR together, an area identified on Schools maps as “CL 19,” composed of Evans Ridge, Sycamore Hill and a section of Potomac Station in the southwest quadrant of the intersection of Battlefield Parkway and Ft. Evans Road east of Leesburg Outlet mall, would be divided into thirds.
“I can’t see splitting up CL19,” said School Board chairman John Stevens. After looking at an aerial map, Stevens said he saw the backyard fences between some divided streets have “just about enough room to push a lawnmower through.”
“If drawing a line across the Lakes at Red Rock would split a community, I just can’t see how that works [in CL19],” Stevens said.
Another plan favored by School Board member Tom Marshall (Leesburg), would reduce the percentage of free and reduced meal (FRM) students, generally those from less affluent neighborhoods, from 44 percent to 20 percent at Catoctin Elementary
Bergel asked LCPS staff if there was a way to add numbers at Sycolin Creek Elementary, geographically isolated in the southern end of Leesburg with low numbers of English Language Learners (ELL) and FRM students (seven and four percent, respectively) but resistant to easy fixes because of limited options for transportation.
Sam Adamo, LCPS executive director of planning and legislative services, says children from low-income families need to attend schools close to public transportation -- buses and taxis -- so if they become ill at school, their parents have a way to come and get them.
The last public hearing on the new boundaries will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the Loudoun Government Center, 1 Harrison St. SE in Leesburg.
The School Board will decide the final attendance plan at its last meeting of the year: 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13. That will also be the last meeting of the present board. On Jan. 3, six newly-elected members will join returning members Tom Reed (at-large), Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin) and Brenda Sheridan (Sterling).