Loudoun School Board adopts new boundary plan for Ashburn and Dulles North

December 17, 2012

The Loudoun County School Board voted to adopt a new boundary plan Tuesday for Ashburn and Dulles North area elementary schools, relocating hundreds of students to accommodate the opening of two elementary schools next year.

The board decided to table the possibility of considering a multi-track, year-round program at Selden’s Landing Elementary, a proposal supported by some members of the Lansdowne community who hoped to keep their children enrolled at the school.

The new attendance map encompasses 13 existing elementary schools — four of which will be unaffected by the new boundaries — as well as Discovery and Moorefield Station elementary schools, which will open next fall for the 2013-14 year.

The vote followed a lengthy debate over the possibility of a year-round program at Selden’s Landing, an issue that came to the forefront of rezoning discussions in recent weeks, as community and board members considered ways to avoid splitting the Lansdowne community between Selden’s Landing and Steuart W. Weller Elementary.

Many Lansdowne residents, hoping to avoid seeing their children move from Selden’s Landing, had advocated for the year-round plan, in which students attend school for the same total number of days per year, but with the cycles of attendance and vacation staggered across multiple “tracks” to help relieve crowding.

Several board members, including Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn), Bill Fox (Leesburg) and Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run) had expressed support for a proposal to look into the possibility of a multi-track program at the school.

Hornberger noted that, with new residential developments coming to Ashburn, the challenge of addressing school crowding will become more acute in coming years. A year-round schedule might “present a solution,” he said.

“We don’t know yet, because we have not investigated it,” Hornberger said. “And so, while I continue to have reservations, I do think this is something that could be looked at.”

Board members Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin) and Jeff Morse (Dulles) said they think the proposal was worth examining but not in connection to the boundary process.

“I understand the fiscal component of multi-track schools, and the argument is a sound one to say that it might save us tens of millions of dollars,” Bergel said. “It may be something we need to consider . . . but the way that we can lead is to have a conversation that involves the entire community, not because of a boundary decision.”

Morse agreed that the idea deserves further study but echoed Bergel’s assertion that it should not be tied to a vote about the new Ashburn attendance zones. Although such a proposal would involve a period of review, he said, it wasn’t fair to leave a community hanging in the balance with no certain outcome.

“We can’t . . . dangle it over the heads of the entire Lansdowne community while they stand around and wait for five months to figure out if it’s going to happen or not,” he said.

Dozens of community members sat in the board room throughout the discussion, many holding signs to advocate their views. There were signs in support of a year-round curriculum at Selden’s Landing and others opposing it. There were also signs representing communities that wanted to stay intact: Some Brambleton residents held up signs urging the board to keep their students enrolled at Legacy Elementary, a cause that School Board Vice Chairman Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) had championed but that ultimately did not prevail.

With the School Board divided over a year-round curriculum, Hornberger instead urged fellow members to support the plan that was ultimately adopted and applauded the work of the board and the community throughout a “very difficult” process.

He was impressed by the civility of the conversation, saying, “I saw different communities come together at the end and say, we both support this plan; we’re ready to come together and heal the battle.”

Hornberger also said he was pleased that the board heard “terrific input” by the greater Ashburn community.

“We are never going to achieve a perfect plan,” he said. “But we have come as close to that as I think we humanly could.”

The plan passed 8 to 1, with Turgeon abstaining. After the vote, Turgeon posted on her public Facebook page that she was disappointed that she was “not able to make the changes that I felt would best benefit the schools in the Brambleton and Loudoun Valley Estates area.” But she urged the community to embrace the new school assignments.

“While stability is important for our children, I think it is equally important to teach them resilience and how to best face challenges that come their way,” she said on Facebook. “In addition, it is my hope that communities will come together during this time of change, rather than deepen divides that seem to have arisen from this process. We are all a part of the Loudoun County community.”

The School Board also named the principals for the two new elementary schools at its Tuesday meeting. James E. Dallas, principal of Cedar Lane Elementary, will lead Discovery Elementary; and Karen Roche, principal of Aldie and Middleburg elementary schools, will lead Moorefield Station Elementary. Both will begin their new appointments in January, school officials said.

Caitlin Gibson is a local news and features writer for The Washington Post.
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