A Love Story to Savor

Last Sunday morning, I picked up our paper and got a wonderful surprise. Instead of Kosovo, robbery, killings and other horrors, I read a love story ["For an Athlete, Family Choices," July 11]. I thank you for printing the story about Hank and Lindsay Meadows and their life to date. How lucky they are to have parents who love and help them. Please tell them to believe, because dreams do come true, and I hope to hear sometime in the future that Hank made the NFL team.



Builders Must Consider Quality

Instead of railing against policies that would promote home builder corporations paying for more of the burden they place on localities ["Loudoun Raises Fees for Builders," Metro, July 8], I think the president of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association should concentrate on the problems that the membership of that organization is causing itself. New homeowners and potential new homeowners in Loudoun not only have to think about all of the external worries that plague any property owner, but thanks to recent incidents, they have to worry about the potential "nightmare" from within their "dream house."

Having invested $200,000 or much more in a new domicile, one doesn't expect it to blow up and main or kill you. You don't expect to be overcome by carbon monoxide. And you don't expect to have basketball-size rocks blasted through your roof and walls ["Rocks Rain Onto Loudoun Street," Metro, July 10]. You expect electrical, plumbing and utility connections to be correctly and competently assembled. You wanted a home, not Mr. Blanding's Dream House.

What is causing all of these problems? I'm not sure about all of them, but I think a good place to start would be the competency and integrity of those building the houses. The builders and developers must bear the most scrutiny. It would appear that in their haste to maximize their profits and build, build, build, quality and safety are getting left in the dust. Avarice and only thinking about the "bottom line" will be found to be the root causal factors.

Builders can't find enough skilled workers? No problem! There's plenty of undocumented labor to be found. (Of course, there will be short lulls in building while they duck behind the plywood and shingles when the immigration man drives by). Forget about producing a quality product and a satisfied customer; there's a hot market out there and they've got to get more of the action. Don't even think about slowing down to a manageable pace to ensure that quality is produced.

It's not a building boom, it's a feeding frenzy, and the home buyer is nothing more than blood on the water.

If you're a potential new home buyer in Loudoun County, you had better be very, very careful and wary. You need to press the builder and the Realtor to the wall. Use a phrase from the Cold War as your guide: Trust, but verify! The watchword is no longer quality and value, but caveat emptor.

If the builders association and developers aren't careful, they might wind up doing to themselves what the "smart growth" people haven't been able to do quite yet: bring the sprawl to a standstill. And the reason will be because no one will trust or buy their product. There may be a shortage of skilled construction labor, but there's no shortage of lawyers.

Ah! More sharks attracted by the blood.



New School Isn't the Best Option

The planned intermediate school [between Clarkes Gap and Hamilton] should not be built and need not be built. The disruption it will cause outweighs the temporary relief of the overcrowding at Blue Ridge Middle School and Loudoun Valley High School. I greatly regret not having been involved in the debate about this facility last year; however, I only became aware of the matter while serving on the Rural Loudoun School Study Committee. I must note that I was forced to resign by my conscience when the majority of the members refused to permit any dissenting views to the report ["School Issues Shake Up Panel," July 1].

The intermediate school will house the eighth grade from Blue Ridge and the ninth grade from Loudoun Valley, thus reducing the overcrowding at the two schools. Yet less than three years later, all three schools will be at about 90 percent of capacity. How will this developing shortfall of capacity be addressed? By converting the intermediate school to a regular middle school and making Loudoun County High School the second western high school (though it would also draw from, perhaps, Lucketts).

As these events come to be, one group of students will go through the following transitions. They will attend Blue Ridge for two years. Next, one year at the intermediate school. Off to Loudoun Valley for one year, then to Loudoun County for two years. Even those students and their parents who are not subject to this severe situation may still be dismayed to face two years at Blue Ridge and the intermediate school followed by three years at one of the high schools.

This sort of shuttling around is counter to one of the proposed recommendations of the Rural Loudoun School Study Committee: create boundaries and clusters that minimize the transitions. Many parents in the eastern part of the county are rightly upset with the multiple schools their children must attend due to boundary changes. Yet the building of the intermediate school creates a similar situation in the western part. Why on earth would this be done? The primary reason put forth by the people I have talked to was to avoid having any students in the western part of the county attend a school in the eastern part. One woman put it succinctly when she wrote that if she wanted her child to attend schools in Leesburg, she would have moved to Leesburg. She forgets that Leesburg, as many other locations to the east of her, are all part of Loudoun County with regard to the school system. The only legitimate reason for building the intermediate school is to relieve overcrowding, but this is an unnecessarily expensive (both in terms of dollars and disruption) option and not the sole option.

The projections of the student population and attendance at the county schools point to another solution. For the 2000-01 school year the boundary of the Loudoun Valley/Loudoun County clusters can be moved west. By that time, the construction in the east will relieve the situations at Simpson Middle School in Leesburg and Loudoun County High School sufficiently that these two schools can accept enough students from the west to return the western schools to below their capacity. By two to three years following that, a new middle school will need to be built in the west. This new middle school should be located so that the students attending it will attend Loudoun County next.

This shift in the cluster boundary is already being asked for by the parents of Middleburg. They are dismayed that some of the students attending Middleburg Elementary School are in the Loudoun County cluster while others are in the Loudoun Valley cluster. Although their representatives on the committee are asking to have the boundary moved east, so all the students will be in the Loudoun Valley cluster, the fundamental issue of the students remaining together will be remedied by a shift west of the boundary.

At the very least, the Middleburg and Waterford areas should be included in the Loudoun County cluster, though other areas may need to be included. This will mean one boundary shift and one change in schools to be attended. Some students would attend Blue Ridge Middle School and Simpson Middle School, but this is no more burdensome than attending Blue Ridge followed by the intermediate school.

I was led to this recommendation by the information presented to me while participating on the committee. It is a feasible solution that addresses the overall issues better than the intermediate school. I am so convinced of this that not only do I oppose the construction of the intermediate school, but I will oppose the bond referendum that contains the funding for it. Other necessary projects are to be funded by the bond and a delay to them would be unfortunate. However, the school crisis in the county must be overcome by solutions which are reasonable from the perspective of the entire county and make best use of the tax revenue which comes from the entire county; the intermediate school fails in both considerations.