Parents defend attendance zones before School Board
School Board members at Wednesday’s night attendance zoning meeting heard one message again and again from more than 60 speakers: keep our communities together.
Parents and residents reacted to six different plans for attendance zones that would change with the opening of Discovery and Moorefield Station elementary schools in the 2013-2014 school year.
School Board members developed six separate plans for attendance zones to complement the school system’s “base plan”.
Plans 1 and 2 were proposed by chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn), Plan 3 by Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run), Plan 4 and 6 by Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) and Plan 5 from the community, sponsored by Thomas Reed (at large).
“On about 12 of the schools we’re gonna have universal agreement,” Reid said, describing his plan. “It’s really on three of the schools we’re going to have to work hard on it.”
Turgeon said several plans were being proposed throughout the process to increase transparency and give residents the ability to voice opinions long before the votes for the new zones were cast.
“It puts the ideas in our heads out so the public can see,” Turgeon said. “We’re trying to avoid as much as possible putting things out at the last minute.”
She called the process difficult because it’s hard to anticipate how many neighborhoods will be built in areas anticipated to grow. Her plans focus more heavily on the western edges of the planning area, which is her district.
“I didn’t like that issues people felt were important weren’t being addressed,” Turgeon said.
She also kept DN32 going to Mill Run Elementary School and DN39 at its current school, Newton Lee Elementary.
Parents in the DN09a district used their two-minute public comment periods to read through an entire PowerPoint presentation about why their neighborhoods, which sit just outside Belmont Country Club, should not be redistricted from Newton Lee Elementary to Belmont Station Elementary.
“It’s not appropriate to kick one person out of a community for the sake of another one,” said Michelle LoPresti, leader of the parents who put together the PowerPoint.
Cynthia Singleton, in the neighborhood of Alexander’s Grove in what would be DN09a, argued that community school boundaries shouldn’t be defined by homeowners associations.
“This stance is not about emotion or about an us vs. them mentality,” Singleton said. “It concerns me that we’re considering plans that don’t follow the bylaws and deciding which students should attend a school by HOA country club status alone.”
The DN09 parents who followed argued that Newton Lee’s population would continue to drop as the community was built out and that sending DN09a’s students to another school would waste buses when the students could be walking.
“Their roads tie into our roads,” parent Chris Jackson said. “There is no way for DN09 to get to Newton Lee without passing through DN09a or going around it completely.”
The most shuffled district in the plans is DN39, which is zoned to three different elementary schools over the course of seven different plans.
In the base plan, the district, inside the Belmont Country Club, is moved to Cedar Lane Elementary School. In plans 1,2,4 and 6 it is kept at Newton Lee and in Plan 3 it is moved to Belmont Station Elementary School.
Kellie Paris, a DN39 parent, asked for the zone not to be removed from Newton Lee.
“To remove us from the school effectively removes us from two communities, our neighborhood community and our school community,” Paris told the School Board. “In my opinion a decision to remove DN39 is totally opposite of what the School Board’s charter is and orphans a neighbor with no sense of belonging anyplace in the LCPS system.”
Still more turned out to argue against the splitting of DN13 into DN13 and DN13a, the latter of which would be zoned out of Belmont Station into Cedar’s Lane.
Tu Le, the owner of Top Kick Martial Arts, said that changing DN’s in Belmont Station Elementary would endanger his business because the school buses students to Top Kick after school.
“I don’t know if we can sit and tell a student that they can’t home to Top Kick anymore because we cannot afford to buy a school bus that will cost about $60,000,” Le said.
The School Board will not review plans again until their regular meting on Nov. 27.