Attendance plan passes minus year-round school provision
An elementary school attendance zoning plan that would’ve brought Selden’s Landing Elementary School one step closer to a full year, multi-track school calendar passed without the provision after a fevered last-minute debate at Nov. 11’s School Board meeting.
The plan, modified Plan 7, was proposed by School Board Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) and member Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run).
As originally proposed, it “assumed the implementation” of the school calendar, which would’ve raised Selden’s Landing’s capacity to 1,200 students and allowed the school’s community to stay together thanks to the increased capacity.
Instead, Plan 7, adopted 8-0 with Vice Chair Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge), abstaining, sends three attendance zones – DN01, DN01.2 and DN01.6 to Steuart Weller Elementary School beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.
It reassigns several attendance zones in the Ashburn and Dulles North areas with the opening of Moorefield Station and Discovery elementary schools in the upcoming school year.
The motion to strip Plan 7 of multi-track provision passed 5-3-1. School Board members Turgeon, Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin), Jeff Morse (Dulles), Debbie Rose (Algonkian), and Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) voted to strip out the provision. Kuesters, Hornberger, and Bill Fox (Leesburg) voted against it. Thomas Reed (at large), abstained.
Members opposing the provision said enough they thought consideration of a multi-track year-round school calendar shouldn’t be tied to a particular community.
“I think as board members we have a responsibility to look at major changes such as these and really take our time and not be under the pressure of a community waiting for answer,” Turgeon said.
Morse, who said he’s in favor of school choice such as charter schools and year-round options, said the way the provision was being implemented was not a choice for Selden’s Landing parents.
“I don’t want it become something we’re forcing upon a community in order to keep them from dividing themselves and pit neighbor against neighbor,” Morse said. “We need to find a way to offer it to people who want it.”
Those who voted for the provision said it didn’t automatically enact a multi-track calendar, but rather created a path forward for the School Board to look into the possibility.
“You already decided that it won’t work and there’s no other information that may be provided that will change your mind,” Kuesters said of those who would vote against the provision.
Hornberger said he had reservations about implementing a multi-track calendar, but that it was worth investigating.
Fox, the board’s biggest proponent of the multi-track year-round school calendar, expressed his frustration that the provision would be struck down at the last minute.
There had been little discussion of the provision among the board before last night’s vote.
“I like to remind you of the fact that I’ve been asking for this conversation for nearly a year,” Fox said. “And the first time that anybody has taken it seriously is now that we have a community who has stepped up and said you know we’re interested in this idea.”
He said using the backup plan would only lead to more overcrowding in Selden’s Landing and Steuart Weller.
“We do have the opportunity now to head off that issue and solve it in advance,” Fox said.
Several parents and residents in Lansdowne who had children set to attend Selden’s Landing spoke at Nov. 11’s meeting and a public hearing last week in support of the option. A few residents, however, also spoke against it at both meetings.
Turgeon also proposed an amendment to move DN33 from Moorefield Station to Legacy Elementary School, DN48 from Rosa Lee Elementary School to Moorefield Station and DN47.1a to Legacy to Rosa Lee.
“I cannot support keeping schools over capacity to ensure cluster alignment,” Turgeon said during the meeting. “As an educator, I cannot support that. The negative educational impact of an overcrowded school far outweighs the importance of the social issue of dividing friendships.”
She also said she was concerned that the overcrowded schools would have particularly stressed English Language Learners programs. Her amendment, split into different motions, ultimately failed.
Other School Board members said they were concerned about the possibility of Moorefield Station going well over capacity with additional students and developments in the coming years.
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