“I GIVE UP! FIRST, NOBODY IS LISTENING. SECOND, NOBODY DECIDING IS PERSONALLY AFFECTED. . . . GO FORTH. I WILL NOT SPEND ANY FURTHER ENERGIES INFORMING YOUR FLAWED PROCESS.”
For school officials, there’s an awful lot at stake, too. In many cases, they’re trying to alleviate or prevent badly overcrowded schools, hoping to improve students’ experiences and performance with smaller classes, more individualized attention and better access to resources such as computers and science labs. They’re often trying to increase or maintain diversity, whether for cultural or for academic reasons or both. They want to minimize costs and increase efficiency. They think about existing dividing lines, such as rivers and freeways and housing developments. They try to ensure safety, not asking children to walk across busy roads to get to school. And they want to avoid splintering communities.
A growing student population in Virginia
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Reveley, the third generation in his family to lead a Virginia university, has a lot of constituencies to please.
Montgomery high school students have been failing math finals at a high rate for five years, data show.
Thousands of Fairfax schools employees will probably receive raises in January.
But as they find with each redistricting battle, the ways that people define communities now are increasingly complex.
The District, which has been steadily losing students, is about to launch its first major redistricting in decades, and Charles and Prince George’s counties in Maryland are considering shifts.
In Arlington, anticipating a shortfall of more than 2,000 seats in elementary schools by 2017 (and they already have more than 100 trailers), school officials are planning two new schools and three expansions over six years. Along with surveys and more than 125 community meetings over the past five months, Arlington Public Schools leaders offered a do-it-yourself boundaries map and say they will consider public efforts to craft solutions.
Some residents question Arlington’s projections. William Johnson thinks enrollment won’t grow so quickly and thinks the county could be wasting millions of taxpayer dollars to build new schools. Sociologist Fred Millar says the county’s plans are all wrong for a completely different reason: He believes their efforts to keep neighborhoods together (something most parents support) has created a system in which some schools have more minority and low-income students than others, perhaps perpetuating academic achievement gaps.
And many parents just don’t want to uproot their kids.
“We’re trying to engage the community as much as possible because we do understand boundary moves are difficult,” said Meg Tuccillo, the interim director of facilities planning for Arlington schools. “Families become personally connected and committed to the schools that they’re in.”
Projecting population change is complicated. School officials analyze birth rates, housing starts, current enrollment and a host of other factors. In Fairfax, administrators didn’t anticipate a recent large influx of immigrants with larger families or a bump in enrollment after the economic crash that they think came from parents no longer able to afford private-school tuition. In Loudoun, when building stopped after the crash, they were amazed that they were still seeing more than 2,000 new students a year.