Smaller Classes a Must

Some Arlington parents who are opposed to school redistricting plans have proposed moving special education programs to underutilized schools to alleviate overcrowding at targeted schools, because these programs "sometimes devote an entire classroom to a small group of students" ["Boundary Lines Are Forming Battle Lines," Extra, Oct. 21]. Redistricting squabbles should not be resolved at the expense of educating special-needs children in their home schools. Federal law protects special-needs children from administrative shuffling such as the kind suggested by some parents. Specifically, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act requires that special-needs children be educated "as close as possible to the child's home." This means that a disabled child must be "educated in the school that he or she would attend" if the child was not disabled.

Moving special education students to other schools to alleviate overcrowding not only violates federal law, it also demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding as to what constitutes effective special education. The unique needs of disabled children are best suited by smaller classes. Low teacher to pupil ratios in classrooms with minimal distractions and ample space for individualized instruction consistently produce the best results for special-needs children. Indeed, if my special-needs son had not attended such a preschool class for two years prior to entering kindergarten, he would have never been successfully mainstreamed as he is today.

Beth T. Sigall


No to Redistricting

Regarding the article "Boundary Lines Are Forming Battle Lines," I would like to emphasize that the current battle over boundaries is not an issue of race, but of logistics and rationality. To support this argument, I urge you to look at Arlington public schools' civil rights statistics and note that Long Branch Elementary has higher minority enrollment percentages than many of Arlington's other elementary schools, highlighting our long-standing tradition of embracing and cultivating diversity within our school.

As an Ashton Heights resident, my concern is that the Arlington County School Board is considering ripping apart our community by taking almost half of Long Branch Elementary's students and busing them across two major arterial roads to a school clearly outside of their own neighborhood. Currently, our children walk to their neighborhood school, enjoying safe-walk zones and a wonderful sense of community. In short, we simply want our children to attend their neighborhood school -- in their neighborhood.

Kathleen Murray


Parents Could Try Harder

I have been reading with interest the articles concerning the revision of school boundaries in Arlington because of expected overcrowding. From my experience as a parent of an Arlington schools graduate, I have two words for the parents who believe they are beleaguered: face reality. The schools need you to be constructive, not obstructive.

Should your children be transferred, you will find they are far more resilient than you apparently are. Should you want to continue the friendships your child has already established, then rearrange your priorities and make that happen outside of school. You are capable and successful in the world beyond school. Why not use those talents to assist, not resist?

What I see of these parents is only that they are upsetting their youngsters. Using their students in this way is harmful to the child. Why not talk about making additional and new friendships? How about describing it as a new adventure in a new school? After all, all schools in Arlington are excellent. Why whine when it's not necessary? Parents, get with it. Turn your perceived lemon into lemonade.

Barbara Nash


In Defense of Glebe

You imply that Glebe Elementary School needs improvement when you print a quotation like the one attributed to Troy Schneider in "Boundary Lines Are Forming Battle Lines." Schneider suggested that perhaps "two, three, four years from now Glebe [may be] a better school." Printing such a quote without any supporting evidence that Glebe is indeed in need of improvement is simply irresponsible.

In fact, supporting evidence to the contrary abounds. If you want to write about Glebe, why not contact Swanson Middle School (the middle school Mr. Schneider's 1-year old will likely attend)? There, former Glebe students are on both honor rolls, are featured prominently in band and drama productions, and are on many sports teams. The Academic Hallmarks team, which placed No. 1 in the world in the Knowledge Master Open two years ago, regularly features several former Glebe students. In any year, take a look at math classes. Sixth-graders doing seventh-grade math? You'll find several former Glebe students doing that. Algebra in seventh grade? Again, Glebe students make up a disproportionately large number of these students. Two of the fewer than 10 Swanson students accepted into Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology last spring were former Glebe students. Of the 16 high school students recently named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, two went to elementary school at Glebe. How can a school in need of improvement produce such talented students?

Another point in your article that could use a little more scrutiny is the fact that 35 percent of the children who live in the Glebe attendance area attend other schools. Yes, this may be true, but please take a look at where the Glebe district is located. There are two very good Catholic schools just outside Glebe's attendance area, and Arlington Traditional School is actually closer for some residents. Yes, we all have choices in what schools our children attend, but in central Arlington, we have a lot of great choices that are just around the corner. I made a conscious choice to send my children to Glebe after visiting both ATS and St. Ann. My children are now doing well in middle and high school, with friends of various races and ethnicities. Isn't that why we chose to live in Arlington? Why isn't a school that reflects the demographics of the county we chose to live in considered the model?

Janet Giannotti