The board’s vote brought to a close a complicated process that involved a number of public meetings, hearings and work sessions to examine the best way to redraw Leesburg’s school boundary lines. Among the goals were to ease classroom crowding and balance the populations of low-income students and English language learners across Leesburg’s nine elementary schools. More than a dozen plans were considered before the board adopted Bergel Plan 2 Amended.
At hearings over the past several weeks, many parents protested the possibility of having their children relocated. Board members acknowledged the legitimacy of the parents’ concerns — which are fairly typical during most boundary discussions, school officials said — as well as the impossibility of pleasing every affected community.
“If we listen to the public, we would build an 875-seat building that would sit empty, because no one wants to change from the status quo,” School Board member Tom Marshall (Leesburg) said Tuesday.
Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin) said that the process of drawing new boundary lines was “hands-down the most difficult decision” of her term.
“I’m shaking, because of the fact that, like for so many of you, this has been very difficult,” she said.
Bergel made the motion to adopt the Bergel Plan 2 Amended map, with Marshall, Thomas E. Reed (At Large), Priscilla B. Godfrey (Blue Ridge) and Robert F. DuPree (Dulles) voting in favor of the plan. Board Chairman John Stevens (Potomac) opposed the plan, along with board members Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) and Brenda Sheridan (Sterling). Joseph M. Guzman (Sugarland Run) was absent.
Stevens said he would not support the plan, because it concentrates 50 percent of Leesburg’s special-education students at two schools and splits a community labeled on the map as CL-19, which Stevens described as an interconnected neighborhood. The plan would move many of the low-income families in the community to John W. Tolbert Elementary School to help balance demographics across other Leesburg elementary schools.
That decision, Stevens said, was not made “for the people who live in CL-19. It is made because it enables other neighborhoods to get the school placements that they want to have . . . and that just doesn’t sit right with me.”
Bergel defended the plan, contending that it was the best overall solution for the broader community.
“I am not sitting up here making a decision for the benefit of some and not others,” she said. The choice was made “not to split communities . . . it’s to make sure that we are doing as best we can in terms of Leesburg.”