Reston, VA

Dozens of protesters showed up last night to the Fairfax County School Board’s work session on a proposal that would change how local school boundaries are adjusted.

Before the school board began discussing the proposal, the meeting room was packed with protesters. Police blocked the door, telling a crowd of about 30 people outside that they could not go into the room, which had reportedly reached its capacity.

The discussion on the proposal was delayed by an hour and a half as staff worked to set up overflow seating with live streaming of the work session in the cafeteria.

Around 7:30 p.m., Jeffrey Platenberg, the assistant superintendent for the Department of Facilities and Transportation Services, kicked off the discussion on the proposal with a presentation.

The draft policy would look at a new set of criteria for prompting and then establishing school boundaries. Once a school boundary change has been identified, some of the new criteria to create the new boundary include:

  • “socioeconomic and/or racial composition of students in affected schools”
  • “the safety of walking and busing routes”
  • “operational efficiency”

“When boundary changes are being considered by the School Board, the changes shall not be restricted by the boundaries of individual schools, administrative areas, zip codes, or magisterial district,” according to the draft. The proposal would also get rid of expedited boundary adjustments.

Throughout the meeting, protesters in the room waved signs saying “Communities Build Great Schools NOT Boundary Changes” and “Education Excellence NOT Social Engineering.” Several of the protesters said that they thought the process behind how the proposal was created was not transparent.

Some Great Falls residents have banded together to oppose the boundary changes — which could break up the Langley school pyramid. An online petition to keep the pyramid together has gained more than 2,000 signatories.

We want our school board and administration to recognize that redistricting would pull apart our community, will significantly decrease property values of hard-working families who pushed the envelope to move into this community, and most importantly, leaves the underlying problems unsolved,” the petition states.

School board members had mixed reactions to the proposal.

School Board Chair Karen Corbett Sanders said that “significant growth” in the Dulles Corridor that will impact schools and questioned if an outside consultant could help the board and community, since it “seems to be a bit of a disconnect that people don’t feel like we have let people about what we’re doing.”

“I very much support opening the boundary,” Jane Strauss, the Dranesville District representative, said.

Meanwhile, others raised concerns about equitable access outlined in the proposal.

At-Large Member Ilryong Moon said that he’s not convinced that the proposal is an improvement after asking for an example of “equitable access to educational opportunities” and Platenberg told him that school boundaries could change to prevent program placement in different schools.

The school board is slated to approve the draft in September ahead of its incorporation in the Capital Improvement Program draft in December.

Catherine Douglas Moran and Fatimah Waseem reported on this story.

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