Despite grumbles on topics ranging from boundaries to the budget, a recent survey indicates that most people in Loudoun are actually more than satisfied.
In a survey created jointly by the Loudoun County School Board and Superintendent Edgar Hatrick and administered by K12 Insight, 45 percent of respondents rated LCPS as excellent and 46 percent rated them as good. Just 8 percent said the school system was only fair.
The survey was sent out in May, primarily via email, and received a 15.5 percent participation rate. Because of this, the school system said the report is not generalized to the community but rather the results “reflect the perceptions and opinions of those individuals who participated in the survey.” Of those who completed the survey, 95 percent were parents of current Loudoun students.
“I think we were, from a staff perspective, we were pleased with the level of participation,” said Ned Waterhouse, deputy superintendent. “The K12 Insight people said that was a higher level of a participation that we would normally expect.”
Participants were polled on a variety of topics including transportation, STEM education, kindergarten programs and communication.
While LCPS's overall results were good, parents did note they did seek more in specific programs, something Waterhouse said he and staff anticipated.
“A lot of it is stuff that was already on our radar screen,” Waterhouse said.
With Loudoun's participation in Thomas Jefferson a point of debate this school year, participants largely spoke out against continued enrollment in the school.
At 48 percent, nearly half of participants felt Loudoun should phase out of Thomas Jefferson and focus on expansion of Loudoun's own Academy of Science.
Some people noted in their surveys that they felt Thomas Jefferson was too far away and cost taxpayers too much money to continue. Nineteen percent of those polled felt Loudoun should maintain participation in Thomas Jefferson.
Similarly, 60 percent of respondents felt LCPS should expand the Academy of Science, to include an enrollment increase and its own designated space (AOS is currently housed at Dominion High School in Sterling).
Participants also said that they would like STEM education expanded at all high schools and started at younger ages.
The majority of respondents, at 47 percent, supported the county expanding to full-day kindergarten, despite needing additional construction or expanded facilities to do so. Currently, full-day kindergarten is restricted to four Title One schools, for at-risk children.
Thirty percent of respondents sought to maintain the current level of programming, citing the emotional maturity of five and six-year-olds. A smaller group, 16 percent, suggested expanding the program as available with current facilities.
While survey-takers found communication from teachers, principals and school administrators to be beyond satisfactory, LCPS administrators and the School Board were far less in favor.
Of those polled, 85 percent felt teachers communicated favorably and 84 percent of school leaders communicated favorably. The same group gave LCPS administration a 53 percent rating and the School Board a 48 percent rating.
In terms of seeking input, teachers and school leaders received 61 and 57 percent ratings respectively while both the LCPS administration and the School Board received 37 percent ratings.
Of those parents polled, 7 percent had children receiving English Language Learning instruction, 20 percent had children who received Gifted and Talented programming and 17 percent had children with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan.
The English Language Learning program received high marks, with 88 percent of respondents rating the program excellent or fair. IEP/504 Plans and Gifted Education also earned praise, with 74 percent and 71 percent feeling the programs to be excellent or good respectively.
Only 17 percent were dissatisfied with school transportation. Problems included: the length of the bus ride, the distance to walk, safety while walking and student behavior on buses.
With the success in this year's survey format with K12 Insight, Waterhouse said he hopes to repeat the survey process next year.
Additionally, he said the school will take the results into consideration and try to implement changes with help from the School Board.
“I assume we're going to see some of the stuff discussed in the upcoming budget season.”