LTE: The School Boundary Process Is Broken

An Ashburn resident explains what she believes is wrong with the way LCPS selects enrollment districts.

Something is broken in the system used to determine school boundaries in Loudoun County.

In the midst of the boundary hearings, school planning zones are being split when new plans are announced, walk zones are being established without safety review or public input, and HOA has become the “official” definition of community.

School Board Bylaws 2-32 list in order the initial considerations to be considered when making changes to boundaries. They are as follows:

  1. Facilities – Effective use of new and existing facilities. Promote reasonable balancing of enrollment within the school system.
  2. Proximity – Keeping students close to their school. Attendance zones shall be based upon geographic proximity as measure by distance traveled using established routes of transportation. Adjacent neighborhoods to a school should be given priority to that school. Efforts will be made to encourage walking as the primary means of transportation.
  3. Community – Promote the concept of community schools in which the school is in the community and the community is in the school.

When Proximity is ignored, Trailside Middle School is not the middle school that Newton-Lee Elementary School students will attend. These two schools are located on the same site, are just 70 feet apart, share a common entrance, and will be required to share fields, parking, etc. According to the criteria used by the school board as stated above, students attending Newton-Lee should be given first priority to attend Trailside Middle School. These considerations are being ignored when plans shift the Newton-Lee community comprised of Belmont County Club, Alexander’s Grove and Cedar Ridge to the Belmont Ridge/HS-8 cluster. While walk zones have not been established it is believed that a large percentage of Belmont Country Club students would be able to walk to Newton-Lee Elementary School and Trailside Middle School. The potential savings for middle school students alone is $ 210,483.00 (Transportation cost of $771 per student per year provided by LCPS Planning).

When proximity is ignored, two Ashburn Farm school zones that are within sight and walking distance of Broad Run High School use HOA as the justification to attend Stone Bridge High School. One zone argues it will still require busing due to safety concerns. Even if bused, the distance to Broad Run is less than the distance they are bused to their current high school. The School Board could realize an immediate savings of $ 65,535.00 and an additional potential savings of $46,260.00 by realigning these two school zones to the closest high school.

In the midst of a $16 million budget shortfall, the School Board should be looking to maximize transportation cost savings.

When HOA equals community (and community is used as the most important criteria) you wind up with large HOAs populating area schools first and then smaller neighborhoods are placed where ever they fit best. In School Board Plan 10 you can refer to the placement of school zone 09a as an excellent example of this flawed rationale (see LCPS website under Planning and Legislative services for map). 

When HOA equals community (and community is used as the most important criteria) plans move school zone DN 15.1 to Stone Bridge, its ”rival school” because two streets in this section were annexed by Ashburn Farm in 2003.

When HOA equals community (and community is used as the most important criteria) it becomes acceptable to shift seven Belmont Country Club school zones out of their existing high school only to move five Broad Run High school zones to Stone Bridge. Why are we shifting so many school zones out of stone Bridge only to moves other in?

The system for considering boundary changes is broken. Loudoun County should hire an outside firm, one with no stake in the process to help make recommendations when considering boundary changes similar to what is done in Arlington County.

The changes made now will be in place for many years, especially the changes made to Broad Run, Stone Bridge, and HS-8. The board should create a plan that considers balanced enrollment and proximity as the main factors, as well as moving the fewest number of students possible.

Erin McMahon
Ashburn, VA

LCPS Parent April 16, 2013 at 08:48 PM
RileyMD - Any way that you do the directions, BCC will always be closer to Trailside than Belmont Ridge. The fact is many times children are not sent to the closest high school. (See the Heritage HS boundaries). The fact is, by putting BCC at Trailside pushes someone else out. When the Belmont Ridge Rd. overpass is complete, the distance to HS-8 and Belmont Ridge will be much shorter than today and much closer than any route for Ashburn ES students (who you want to send to Belmont Ridge). When will it be done - just in time fo rthe opening of HS-8. No need to spend all day on mapquest. "Belmont students would very much like to go to Trailside as well." Well, Lansdowne children wanted to continue to attend Stone Bridge, but that didn't happen either and that was the closest high school as well.
Colter95 April 18, 2013 at 05:21 PM
Tonia, I've seen several fliers in the AF community related to the boundary process, but none have said "THIS IS OUR COMMUNITY". Regardless, it appears that you have no problem advocating for your community or neighborhood, and support those who do also... But when others do the same for their community, you take exception. I have not seen any "bullying" here. Just, for the most part, a thoughtful exchange of views based on our personal situations and experiences. And while there may be some AF that support your position, the vast majority are solidly in support of Plan 12, which keeps already built out communities intact. There is a reason that AF, AV, Broadlands, and many smaller communities support the same plan. It's the plan that keeps the most kids in the school's they have known, is the most common sense solution, and abides by all the requirements set forth by the LCSB.
RileyMD April 20, 2013 at 02:09 PM
LCPS Parent: This is the way the majority of school buses travel from BCC to BRMS. Yes, IF and WHEN Belmont Ridge Rd is improved and we know for a fact that it solves all of our current transportation issues, we can factor it in. At this time this information does not exist. Please don't lecture those who live in BCC and are familiar with surrounding streets and ways to get to school. I don't see how living in Landsdowne makes you an expert.
RileyMD April 20, 2013 at 02:10 PM
(Cont.) While I bought my house because it was zoned for Stone Bridge, I actually don't mind if my child goes to HS-8. At this time, I am concerned about what happens with middle school boundaries, especially with Trailside being a mile away from my house. It is not logical to continue sending Belmont students across Rt. 7 for middle school just like it wouldn't be logical to send Landsdowne to Tuscarora once HS-8 is built. Many BCC parents with children at BRMS and Newton-Lee Elem. want their younger children to go to Trailside MS. Belmont parents are certainly not against split-feeds and they are not insisting that each sibling graduates from the same high school over the years. It's more important for smaller communities to 1) stay together 2) go to schools built in their communities, and, 3) for each child to go to a high school that is great academically (and majority of LCPS are) than for siblings to graduate from the same physical high school location.
mom to sadie April 20, 2013 at 11:20 PM
Tonia, why is it now you feel it necessary to "come to the defense" of some other community when you were making very strong comments on how you supported plan 5. You did not seem to care that that plan left SBHS over crowded..in fact, dismissed all data regarding that fact. In plan 5 ALL of AF and 1/2 of Broadlands would addend Trailside and SBHS..so which is it? Do you actually favor proximity because clearly in Plan 5 this is simply not the case OR do you have some other issue that has nothing to do with boundaries?


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