Wednesday, Apr. 16
Editorial: Saving schools: Our common bond
No issue arouses passions as much as a community and its schools. So emotions run strong when residents face the closing of elementary schools that have long represented the culture of their community.
The threat of closing several of Loudoun County’s oldest and smallest elementary schools -- Lincoln, Hillsboro, Hamilton and Aldie — has been a possibility for years as the county’s school system outgrows its traditional infrastructure amid the rapid development that is changing the fundamentals of virtually every institution. In the past, fierce loyalties and impassioned opposition from the close-knit communities of western Loudoun County have forestalled closing schools and busing children to more modern facilities as far as 10 miles away -- some to schools that are already at or almost at capacity.
But now there is another reality. Loudoun schools face a $38 million funding gap from a proposed budget that addressed growth – 2,000 more students will enter the county school system next year -- and instructional changes brought by technology. Having fought and lost its budget battle with a fiscally conservative Board of Supervisors, the School Board now struggles to meet the demands of a growing district and a fiscal imperative to control or reduce costs.
Closing the four elementary schools would save about $2 million, a small portion of both the gap and the overall budget of $600.8 million. While that number would increase when other operational investments are factored in, more is at stake than just the money.
The schools are symbols in their communities. They represent the history and texture of a way of life that citizens are trying to preserve. They speak to the very language that brought people to western Loudoun County.
Citizens across the county have made it clear that they won’t let go of their schools without a fight. The Letters to the Editor in today’s issue reflect just a small part of the fervor to save schools. School Board members are sympathetic, yet caught in the dilemma of cutting costs that are sure to make someone unhappy.
That’s the challenge of living in a fast-growing county at a time of cautious financial oversight – an idea we endorse given the complexities and uncertainties that lie ahead.
We see two ways through the problem. One is to seek creative approaches that reconsider the symbols of community in new terms. Initiatives by residents of Aldie to seek re-zoning or expansion solutions show promise. So does the budding effort to convert Hillsboro Elementary to a charter school, following the efforts of Middleburg residents who are attempting to save their community school.
It is important to look at each school individually, not as a group or as a line on a budget. Each school has its own characteristics, its own opportunities. If a school is outdated, the time has come to reconsider it. One approach might be to convert it into a kind of educational center that celebrates its community’s history, culture and community. New solutions to capitalize such ideas must be found, possibly from the philanthropic and corporate sectors that support education.
In the end, we believe the answer lies in the idea of community. Community is the sense of belonging and feeling valued. Community leadership encourages participation and considering all options of creative citizenship. The School Board holds a public hearing on April 21 at the School Administration Building in Ashburn. We hope a common agenda emerges from citizens and leaders sharing ideas, information and resources that make our schools stronger.
Wednesday, Apr. 9
Editorial: The angels around us
Wednesday, Apr. 2
Virginia should support Medicaid expansion
Wednesday, Mar. 26
Editorial: Frozenonmics? Let it go.
Thursday, Mar. 20
EDITORIAL: Flipping the switch
Friday, Mar. 14
EDITORIAL: An anchor of community is an example of cooperation
Wednesday, Feb. 26
Editorial: Cut education, borrow for Metro? What are supervisors thinking?
Wednesday, Jan. 22
Editorial: A teaching and learning moment for the future of Loudoun schools
Sunday, Jan. 5
Harrington on Loudoun for Jan. 1, 2014
Friday, Jan. 3
Guest Opinion: My letter to House Speaker John Boehner
Wednesday, Jan. 1
LTM Editorial: Preparing for the Wolfpack