Parents sharply divided over non-boundary option for relieving overcrowding at Annandale

Post date: May 18, 2011 12:09:30 PM

From Annandale Blog....

One thing is clear from the first community dialogue to review the four options for addressing the Annandale Regional Study: Whatever the final outcome, some people are going to be very unhappy.

As more than 250 people pored over existing and proposed school boundary maps in the Annandale High School cafeteria Monday evening, they began to form opinions about the pros and cons of each option and the implications for their children and neighborhoods.

A few general perspectives emerged:

  • People seemed sharply divided over Option 4 (the non-boundary option). Some people love it, and others hate it.
  • People don’t like split feeders; they prefer all students at an elementary school moving together to the same middle and high schools.
  • People don’t like their community split among schools. They would like to see all of their children’s friends from their neighborhood and their local pool going to the same school together.

Under Option 4, students would attend Holmes Middle School for grades 6-7, Poe Middle School for grades 8-9, and Annandale High School for grades 10-12.

Several people said that plan would be too disruptive and kids would have a hard time adjusting to new schools every couple of years.

As one parent from the Wakefield Forest area noted, if Option 4 were adopted, his children would have to travel all the way to Alexandria for seventh grade, then transfer to Poe, then go to Annandale High School for grade 10. “That’s four schools in five years,” he said.

Another parent said Option 4 would be particularly disruptive for families with kids only a year apart in age; they would prefer having their kids in the same school as much as possible.

A parent who likes Option 4 said the more frequent transitions won’t be a problem because students would move together with their peers. She said the other options are not logical and merely move around small pockets of students. She also opposes moving the Advanced Academic Program Center out of Glasgow Middle School. Option 1 would relocate that center to Poe, and Option 2 would move it to Holmes.

Another parent who likes Option 4 objected to the way it was presented in the FCPS handout. The supporting materials seem to discourage that option by pointing out the need for a costly addition at Jackson Middle School. Adding a sixth grade to other schools, which is recommended in Option 3, would cost a lot, too, but the materials don’t mention that.

She also complained that Option 4 doesn’t include a proposed attendance area for the new elementary school, which makes it harder to evaluate.

A parent of a Belvedere Elementary School student likes Option 4, because “it provides a long-run solution that keeps students all together.” He doesn’t like the proposals to split Belvedere students among Holmes and Glasgow middle schools.

Although it was the intent of the Annandale Regional Planning Study Committee and the FCPS staff to avoid split feeders, none of the options avoid them completely.

Several residents of the Wakefield Forest area were not happy about the prospect of a long bus ride to Holmes Run or Poe middle schools and want to keep their kids at Frost Middle School.

A resident from Chestnut Hill said he likes Option 2, which calls for the neighborhood’s children to go Frost and Woodson High School. Now the neighborhood is split among Poe and Frost middle schools and Woodson and Annandale high schools.

One parent strongly defended Annandale High School, saying her children are getting a great education there. But someone else at that table said if you move a large area of the Annandale attendance area to Woodson, as would happen under Option 2, AHS might lose some of its better programs because the demand would go away.

Another member of that group said Options 1, 2, and 3 would all result in making AHS less diverse.

Option 1 moves an area between Braddock Road and I-395 to Edison High School. Option 2 moves a smaller area to Edison, a large area to Woodson, and small areas near around Lincolnia to Stuart High School. Option 3 moves a large section to Edison, a small area to Stuart and a large area west of the beltway to Lake Braddock Secondary School.

Several residents of Broyhill Crest are pleased that a new elementary school is coming to their neighborhood, but aren’t happy that their community could be divided among Jackson and Poe middle schools (Options 1 and 3), or Jackson, Poe, and Glasgow (Option 2).

Poe Principal Sonya Swansbrough, who attended the meeting last night, said she has heard from parents who want their communities to stay together and who don’t like the idea of attendance “islands.”

Anita Lynch, the principal of Bren Mar Park Elementary School, expressed disappointment that her school was added to the study late in the process. “We are far from Lacey,” she says, so her school community hadn’t been involved early on and now has to play catch up. “Our community has not had a voice,” she says.

Bren Mar Park students currently go to Poe and Annandale. Lynch would like to keep that structure and would like the school to remain K-5. Under all of the options except the fourth, Bren Mar Park students would be split up for middle school. Under Option 2, her students would be split among Holmes and Twain, and a large group of her students would switch to North Springfield Elementary School.

She suggested another option that hadn’t been considered in the regional study: convert the Plum Center for Lifelong Learning on Edsall Road to an elementary school.

Assistant FCPS Superintendent Dean Tistadt, who was at last night’s meeting, said that would be “unlikely, but not completely out of the question.” That building is needed for adult education and would need extensive renovations if it were converted to a school, he said.

Additional community dialogue sessions will be held May 23 at Falls Church High School and Lake Braddock Secondary School. Another session, targeted for speakers of other languages, will be held June 6 at Annandale Terrace Elementary School. All sessions are 7-9 p.m.