Judge rules in favor of Loudoun School Board in Leesburg boundary case

August 25, 2012

Two Leesburg communities’ petition challenging the Loudoun County School Board’s rezoning plan, which altered boundaries so that more than 600 students were assigned to the new Frederick Douglass Elementary School, have been denied. Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne ruled in favor of the board in a written opinion Monday.

The review marked the first time a case over a school boundary dispute has been brought to court in Loudoun.

Parents in the Potomac Station community, called CL-19 on the boundary map, wanted their children to continue attending John W. Tolbert Elementary School, which is within walking distance of their homes, instead of being bused to Frederick Douglass, where the students had been assigned.

Beacon Hill petitioners, whose children have been reassigned from Frances Hazel Reid Elementary to Catoctin Elementary School, said the process by which the boundaries were drawn violated School Board bylaws. The board justified the boundary change as an attempt to balance the number of English-language learners and low-
income students across the nine elementary schools in Leesburg.

Wayde Byard, spokesman for the Loudoun public schools, said the school system was prepared to go along with whatever the court decided. “We’ve just been getting ready for kids,” he said. Loudoun schools open for students Monday.

Stephanie Holguin, a Beacon Hill parent with two children in second and fourth grades, said the petitioners were not opposed to sending their children to Catoctin.

“What we’re not fine with is the process,” she said. “The real issue is they didn’t follow the bylaws.”

Eric Dekenipp, the lead petitioner for CL-19, has acquired a waiver for his child to stay at Tolbert but acknowledged that the one-year waiver is far from an ideal solution. “It’s a Band-Aid,” he said.

Byard said 12 waivers have been granted for CL-19 students to stay at Tolbert.

Although CL-19 and Beacon Hill parents had different goals, the two verdicts issued by Horne were “almost identical,” said John C. Whitbeck Jr., attorney for Dekenipp on behalf of the CL-19 petitioners.

In his CL-19 ruling, Horne said it was clear “parents did not want their children to be moved.” He wrote that “whichever plan the School Board adopted would upset some parents and this alone does not support a conclusion that the School Board has turned a deaf ear to reason.”

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