EDITORIAL: As school district builds, future turns to learn
Didn’t we just send 4,500 graduates from Loudoun County into the world?
Hasn’t it been just a few weeks that we celebrated commencement at John Champe High School in Aldie, the first graduating class at Loudoun County’s 13th high school?
This week we open No. 14, Rock Ridge High School in Ashburn. And then, next year, No. 15: Riverside High in Leesburg.
Elementary schools are opening everywhere in the county as new neighborhoods grow faster than late summer corn. One of Loudoun’s oldest elementary schools, Middleburg Community School, reopens as a charter school, Loudoun County’s first, fulfilling a wish to maintain community values and a sense of belonging.
Such is the heartbeat of education in the fastest growing county in the nation.
Schools are just a part of it. One way to look at Loudoun County Public Schools is as the county’s largest and most important business. Take a look at the balance sheet:
Public schools: 87
Buses: 854 on the road before 6 a.m.
Budget: $900 million
That’s bigger than the operations of Inova Hospital System, AOL and Orbital Sciences in the county. Bigger than any of the 900 federal contractors or 40 data centers in Loudoun.
This week, there be can be no doubt that Loudoun County schools are open for business.
But the best way to measure assets is to count the young minds that are products of our school system. One is Shreya Kurdukar, an eighth-grader at J. Michael Lunsford Middle School who won a nationwide science competition. The competition targets students in the years when research indicates their interest in science begins to wane and encourages them to explore scientific concepts and creatively communicate their findings. Students nationwide are asked to create a short video communicating the science behind a possible solution to an everyday problem. Shreya’s video detailed her work on the solar-powered Magic Bike, a solution to the growing problem of pollution.
Students like Shreya fail to get their due in the relentless conversation about economic development in the county. Last year’s budget go-around with county supervisors left a number of 21st century learning programs, including educational technologies, on the chopping block.
For more than two decades Loudoun has been celebrated as a “build” school district, with 52 new schools built since 1991. The emphasis now turns to a “learn” district that prepares students for advanced education and the skills required for a complex world.
Educational attainment should be Loudoun’s top priority. Bigger than economic development. Bigger than competition on athletic fields. Bigger even than the Silver Line.
Like Shreya Kurdukar’s Magic Bike, the beginning of the school year provides a vehicle to solve the problems of the future.
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