Antithesis of Middleburg

I love working in Middleburg because it's a small town, a community, a place that feels like home. I put up with the water problem every day, and would happily work on ways to fix it.

Now I'm confronted with working in a resort, whose scope and proportions keep changing. The only constant appears to be "more." Can someone explain to me how a 120-room resort, at least 49 houses, an equestrian facility, other unspecified development and the option for more of everything later is a good bargain? Seventy-five percent open space is 63 acres of development, and the "protected" land can still sprout parking lots and tennis courts.

I'm not sure this is going to be a town I can afford, or want, to work, shop or even walk my dog in. I have friends who have been to Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina, which is being held up as the model for the Salamander Inn development, and I have to say, it's pretty much the antithesis of Middleburg. It's certainly not a "small country inn," and from all accounts the way they make their money is by selling lots and lots of houses. Wasn't that what we were trying to avoid?

Susan Van Wagoner

Middleburg

Plea for Year-Round Schools

Some parents are concerned about the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors' decision to separately list each of eight planned school bond issues on the November ballot ["School-Vote Strategy Worries Some Parents," Loudoun Extra, July 24]. I question the need for a bond issue at all, at least until the school administration demonstrates a valid need.

We are being asked to consider $180 million of additional funding for new schools while the schools we have are empty more than 25 percent of the year. It is time the school board asks the administration to drop the old paradigms and manage the district like the half-billion dollar business it is.

The existing buildings could be used more efficiently by having a year-round educational program that rotates a larger number of students through each facility. This has been done successfully in Colorado and other states, and we can no longer afford to continue to add facilities that are not fully utilized. A year-round program provides many benefits: (1) the educational staff is employed 12 months a year with a proportional increase in salary; however, there would be no additional increase in the cost of benefits since they are provided on an annual basis now; (2) fewer teachers are required for the same number of students; and (3) the students have shorter breaks between sessions, providing more continuity and minimizing the need for repeating subject material learned in the previous session.

We also have to get away from the idea of neighborhood schools, which are extremely inefficient. This made sense a generation or two ago when most children walked to school, but serves no purpose today when the majority of students are bused. Instead, we should be building regional educational campuses where common support facilities (cafeterias, auditoriums, athletic fields, playgrounds, etc.) could service a larger number of students. Larger buildings can be operated more efficiently and with fewer administrators.

I have heard all the arguments against these proposals, but they are fallacious. Extracurricular activities (including interscholastic sports) could be organized to coincide with a year-round program since I believe once someone has the fortitude to adopt a more efficient approach, others will follow. Certainly families would have to adjust their vacation schedules and students wouldn't be able to hold summer jobs, but these sacrifices pale in comparison with the benefits derived from a year-round program. Larger buildings would not lead to inadequate attention to students or social problems among different age groups since there is no reason these facilities couldn't be segregated by age (separate schools within the same structure). It is the educational program, not the bricks and mortar, that determines the success of a school system.

A first-class educational system is a great asset, but we must get serious about how to minimize the financial burden our rapidly growing school district is placing upon the entire community.

Joseph Becek

Aldie

Short-Changing Basketball

I am disgusted with the lack of development and commitment to basketball athletes in Loudoun. Loudoun must establish a new approach toward developing young players. Most people probably think there is a program in place, but there is none. Since the Travel Basketball League began 12 years ago, the number of students participating has doubled, but there have been few, if any, adjustments to the program to enhance skills and team play.

Some suggestions:

1. Take the seventh- and eighth-grade travel teams out of the winter season and play fall basketball. Gym space is better. Snow and winter gym blackouts won't be a factor. Teams can then play winter Amateur Athletic Union tournaments, as most surrounding jurisdictions do.

2. All high schools should offer four weeks of summer camps for third- to 10th-graders as part of their summer educational programs. Students paying $100 to $140 for a week of camp are investing in their future in the high school sports program. The camp will not become a cheap child care service because a true teaching camp is so tough that non-players will beg their parents not to send them.

3. Staff camps with school coaches, travel team coaches, varsity players and basketball alumni. High school players become students of the game when they are the teachers and coaches. That's educating your players, and they work a daytime salaried job and play summer league at night.

4. Have basketball summer leagues for sixth- through 12th-graders played in air-conditioned gyms. The leagues would include recent graduates so that they can provide leadership and skills.

I learned to play basketball in Herndon in the 1960s because no schools or gyms existed in my Loudoun community. Ironically, things have come full circle. My Leesburg AAU club folded in 2002 after 14 years, the last two of which we practiced in Fairfax County because we couldn't get gym space. Many other AAU basketball programs in the county have folded in the last two years.

I played varsity basketball for three years in three different Loudoun County public schools. Since my return from college in 1974, I have coached basketball for 27 years (24 years in public high schools, three in private), 15 years in AAU and six years in the Central Loudoun Basketball League.

My Leesburg and Sterling AAU teams spearheaded the current travel leagues. The blueprint called for eighth-grade teams the first year to be followed by seventh- and sixth-grade teams. I also realized that our student-athletes had no teaching sports camps in their local schools and had to go to Fairfax or elsewhere. Unfortunately, some of our schools have not expanded the programs, and some have actually eliminated summer basketball camps.

My spring 2005 under-13 AAU girls team couldn't find a practice gym in March for three weeks. We had one practice the night before a weekend tournament in Fairfax. The following weekend we lost games in the Virginia State U-13 Tournament to teams we had beaten the previous two years. We had held three practices and played seven road games in 10 days. The Elkton, Va., team had been practicing since December and had played 39 games (11 tournaments). The Louisa County team had played 24 games (five tournaments). We were very competitive, but I was a new coach with new players and no game experience. The Elkton parents/coaches anticipated that they would play about 60 games by season's end.

A few weeks ago, I watched a Loudoun varsity team struggle to beat a Maryland U-13 team in a Fairfax Summer League game. The Maryland parents said their team was tired from the mandatory day camp during the day and the travel around I-495 for the night game.

I have observed the development of club/travel soccer, softball, roller hockey, swimming, gymnastics, competitive cheering and lacrosse. These sports all require special equipment, but basketball, the low-budget sport, has been left out. The history of our basketball teams proves that we do not consistently send a competitive team to represent us at the regional level. Many of the top basketball players in the last five years have chosen to attend private schools.

A few years ago, a Loudoun U-13 Boys Team from Middleburg finished seventh nationally. That team had played 96, 124 and 132 games in consecutive seasons. That was extreme, but it shows you what experience will produce. Parents, coaches, basketball enthusiasts: Look at the limited opportunities we are offering our basketball players. Most serious AAU Teams play 40 to 60 games a year.

Chick Bushrod

Aldie

Kilgore Should Join Forum

Hurray for the editorial "Access to the Debate" [Page A18, July 25].

In June, the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area and the League of Women Voters of the Richmond Metropolitan Area invited all three of Virginia's gubernatorial candidates (Tim Kaine, Jerry Kilgore and H. Russell Potts Jr.) to participate in a candidates forum to be broadcast live and statewide over television and radio during prime time in mid-October.

This hour-long event would be available to every home in Virginia that has a television or radio (no cable or satellite needed), thanks to the Community Idea Stations (owners of public television and radio stations in Richmond and Charlottesville). The Foundation for Virginia, a nonprofit organization in Richmond, would underwrite the cost of this effort. The candidates forum would originate from the Community Idea Stations' studios and be moderated by a well-known personality.

As of July 25, two of the invited candidates' representatives had responded positively and were participating in planning sessions for this event. Unfortunately, Kilgore's campaign manager has given a negative response. Events sponsored by the League of Women Voters require the participation of all certified candidates appearing on the ballot.

We truly regret that, so far, Kilgore's campaign is saying that he will not participate. We believe that our forum would give all Virginians the best coverage of the candidates in a nonpartisan and fair setting, as only the integrity and reputation of the League of Women Voters can provide.

We hope that public pressure will persuade Kilgore to join in our forum.

Sherry W. Zachry

President

League of Women Voters

of the Fairfax Area

Annandale