"Here at Langley we have Jaguars and Corvettes in the parking lot. Over at McLean they have pickups and Chevys."
A student at Langley High School
Mclean and Langley high schools are only three miles apart in the community of McLean. To outsiders, both schools are considered as prestigious as the community itself, which ranks high in affluent Fairfax County.
But to McLean residents, the gulf between the two schools is much wider than the three miles separating them. The gulf is so wide, according to some residents, that a plan to send some youngsters to McLean High School, instead of Langley, is causing as much controversy as one that would send rich children to a poor school district.
The controversy began when the school board decided that Langley has become overcrowded and that McLean can handle many more students than it has. In an effort equalize the enrollment at both schools, the board has proposed a boundary change that would send 70 youngsters to McLean next year.
A community meeting on the issue has been set for 8 p.m. Feb. 27 at Cooper Intermediate School. The board is expected to make a decision on the change March 9, immediately following a public hearing on that date.
Parents opposed to the boundary change say they are concerned that their children will suffer educationally if they are forced to attend McLean; they say they are being singled out because schools officials expected the least opposition from them, and that some families will wind up having children in different schools.
Schools authorities, however, say the parents, like most parents, are simply reluctant to accept change, and suggest that the underlying, and primary, reason for the opposition is the parents prefer Langley because it is considered the "status" in school in McLean.
Status. Many students at both McLean and Langley is viewed as The School to attend in McLean - one that attracts the sons and daughter of the community's more wealthy residents, including congressmen, diplomats and a number of celebrities.
"It's a whole different class of kids that go to Langley," insisted Marya Palacios, a Langley freshman who would go to McLean if the boundary change is approved. "The kids who go there come from all over the world; they're more cultured and intellectually stimulating than the ones who end up going to McLean."
The feelings of status voiced by many students at both schools are almost mirror images. "McLean kids think we're all rich snobs around here," said a Langley student. "I guess we're considered the bourgeois riff raff," said a McLean student.
Despite the schools officials' views and those of the students, parents say "status" has little, if anything, to do with their opposition to the boundary change.
"Our President evidently is not both ered by a school's image; he's sending Amy to Stevens Schools," said Monica Perper of 1653 Quail Hollow Ct., who has two children who would be affected by the boundary change.
Perper said is the quality of education which concerns her. She noted that McLean students scored 12 points lower than Langley students on one of several standardized tests given last year.
"If we are shown conclusively that both schools are equal educationally, it seems we would not be very justified in opposing the move," she said.
But on all other standardized tests, Langley and McLean students scored about equal. School board member Nancy Falck, who represents the McLean school area and supports the boundary change, said the status Langley has attained "is based on image, not on substance."
"The difference between Langley and McLean is like the difference between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum," said Falck, whose sixth-grade son eventually attend McLean, instead of Langley, if the boundary change is approved. "McLean is an aley, if the boundary change is approved. "McLean is an affluent area, period. You'd think we were talking about sending kids into an inner-city school with all the fussing that's going on."
Falck said she believes part of the problem is that many of the 25 parents organizing the opposition to the boundary change have not lived in the community long enough to know it well.
"I hate to lambast the realtors, but they're doing their job too well," she said. "They're telling homebuyers they're getting the best school around when they buy into the Langley school district. And nobody's going to deny that if they showed they believed it enough to buy a house."
Langley High School sprawls over rolling land on George
Langley High School sprawls over rolling land on Georgetown Pike in the rural, but developing, area of western McLean. The school has a more modern, but no less institutional look than McLean, which is a red brick building tucked away in a cul-sac off West-moreland Road.
At least one student, who has attended both schools, believes McLean may have something Langley does not - a sense of community.
"The kids are so much more enthusiastic over at McLean," said Tish Goss, a Langley cheerleader who attended McLean her junior year. "McLear lost 25 basketball games in a row and still tons of kids turned out to support the team.
"They have a lot more things for kids to do to, clubs and movies and stuff. There aren't as many students so more kids can get involved."
The 70 youngsters who would be sent to McLean live in the settled Chesterbrook area of eastern McLean and attend Cooper Intermediate School. Forty more children, who now attend Chesterbrook Elementary School, also would be affected by the change. They currently are scheduled to attend Cooper and later Langley. Under the change, they would attend Longfellow Intermediate School and McLean.
Beginning 12 years ago, Chesterbrook pupils who were in the same class were sent to different intermediate and high schools to help fill the newly constructed Langley High School, which was built to accommodate 2,000 students but has an enrollment of 2,345. Now that the area west of Langley is developing and bringing in more students, the school system wants to make room at Langley and fill up available space at McLean, which also was built for 2,000 students but has an enrollment of 1,649.
"It was an even bigger fight to convince parents 12 years ago to send their kids to Langley," Falck said. "The boundary change would mean that all children who go to Chesterbrook now would be able to continue through intermediate and high school together. We have an opportunity here to reunite the school community."
But the parents who say they don't want that opportunity have a list of reasons for opposing the move. They say removing only 70 Langley pupils will have little effect on overcrowding; that any change should wait until a countywide school boundary change, planned to start later this year, is completed; that some children will be separated from friends who will go to Langley, and that some families will have older children attending Langley while their younger brothers and sisters will go to McLean.
Some have charged that the Chesterbrook area was singled out because if a larger area were considered, it would anger more families and possibly threaten voter approval of a $39.7-million bond issue this spring.School officials denied the charge.
"Langley has a reputation of excellence, like it or not," said William Galloway, a foreign service officer who said he bought a home in Potomac Hills section of Chesterbrook so his children could go to Langley. "Reputation is something people take seriously. It will be hard convincing people to give that up for something they are not sure about."