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School Board debates balancing number of low-income students in Leesburg elementary schools

This round of attendance zone boundary changes will be a little trickier than the already emotional and complicated process usually is for the Loudoun County School Board.

The last board rezoned about 200 Brambleton-area elementary school students to Evergreen Mill Elementary School in Leesburg in December, which will put the school over capacity by 300 students the next school year if nothing is changed. The current board must now figure out where to send the excess 300 students and decide if it also wants to balance out the amount of low-income students evenly through out Leesburg elementary schools.

The board serving from 2006 through 2011 first reassigned central Loudoun boundaries to balance each Leesburg elementary school’s number of free and reduced lunch students, so that schools in low-income neighborhoods wouldn’t be overwhelmed with students that need special services.

Since then, elementary schools closest to low-income neighborhoods like Catoctin Elementary School now have the lower amounts of free and reduced lunch students and the schools farther away from low-income areas have higher numbers of disadvantaged students.

According to Loudoun County Public Schools projections, 33 percent of Frances Hazel Reid Elementary School students will qualify for free and reduced lunch the next school year. Evergreen Mill Elementary School will have 28 percent, Balls Bluff Elementary School 27 percent and Cool Spring Elementary will be 19 percent. These percentages are all higher than LCPS’ overall free and reduced lunch rate of 18 percent.

A few parents who spoke at the Feb. 18 public hearing said they want the board to return students to schools closer to their communities.

The two Leesburg School Board members who will work together on drafting new boundaries have differing views on whether bringing students to schools closer to home is more important than balancing the socioeconomic statistics at each school.

Tom Marshall (Leesburg) also served on the board from 2007 to 2011 during the time the low-income students were redistricted to schools farther away from their neighborhoods. He said he believes in economic integration.

“If you have a high percentage of those kids in your school, it’s a fundamentally different school,” he said. “You don’t have the volunteer support, you don’t have the financial support, you don’t have the support of the families because they’re working.”

Eric DeKnipp (Catoctin) took the school board to court in 2012 because his daughter was moved to a school out of his neighborhood. DeKnipp lost the case but says he still believes students should attend schools closest to their homes when it’s possible.

DeKnipp said if that some low-income neighborhoods have so many elementary-aged students living in them that it would be difficult to completely fix the problem. He said he’d like to see more staff go to schools with higher numbers of English Language Learners (ELL) and free and reduced lunch students.


Upcoming LCPS central Loudoun attendance zone public hearings and work sessions:
Central Loudoun elementary school attendance zones work session- Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m.

Central Loudoun elementary school attendance zones briefing and public hearing- Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m.

Central Loudoun elementary school attendance zones work session- Feb. 29 at 6:30 p.m.

Central Loudoun elementary school attendance zones briefing and public hearing- March 3 at 6:30 p.m.

Central Loudoun elementary school attendance zones work session- March 7 at 6:30 p.m.

Central Loudoun elementary school attendance zones information item- March 8 at 6:30 p.m.

Central Loudoun elementary school attendance zones briefing and public hearing- March 14 at 6:30 p.m.

Central Loudoun elementary school attendance zones action item- March 29 at 6:30 p.m.

Meetings are held at the LCPS Administrative Building in Ashburn.

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