After a contentious process to establish new boundaries for Leesburg elementary schools to accommodate the opening of Frederick Douglass Elementary this year, staff members and parents from nine schools are planning a fundraiser to support the new school and help bring together the community.
Nearly two dozen staff members and parents have formed a basketball team called the Leesburg Lightning and will face off against the Harlem Wizards — a professional basketball team that frequently participates in charity events — in a game at Tuscarora High School on Friday. Money raised from ticket sales will help fund a playground at Frederick Douglass Elementary, organizers said.
“We have two or three people from each school working together, and I thought that was an important symbol — that we’re working together as a team,” said Jennifer Boyd, president of the Catoctin Elementary PTA and organizer of the event. “This is how our schools and our parents should be working, to ensure that everybody’s school and education is good.”
The nine elementary schools taking part are Ball’s Bluff, Catoctin, Cool Spring, Evergreen Mill, Francis Hazel Reid, Frederick Douglass, Leesburg, Sycolin Creek and Tolbert.
Last year, parents and community members flooded School Board meetings and hearings to weigh in on the controversial process of drawing new elementary school boundaries. The School Board voted in December to adopt a plan that relocated about 1,000 students this fall; about 600 students were assigned to Frederick Douglass.
Some parents were pleased with the outcome, applauding the board’s efforts to correct socioeconomic discrepancies across the school populations. But parents in two communities, Potomac Station and Beacon Hill, were not satisfied and filed separate petitions for judicial review in Loudoun County Circuit Court, requesting that the School Board’s decision be reevaluated.
It was the first time in Loudoun history that a rezoning dispute escalated into a court case. In August, Loudoun Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne ruled in favor of the School Board, reaffirming the boundary map and school assignments.
Sharon Wright, a parent at Ball’s Bluff Elementary who was among those who addressed the School Board during the boundary process, said it was time for the community to put aside past disagreements.
“The boundary process is never pretty, but it’s what the communities do after the boundaries are redrawn that really sets them apart,” she said. “I think [the fundraiser] is also unprecedented, to do an event like this with so many schools in one community.”
When representatives from the elementary schools first met to discuss the possibility of a fundraiser, the litigation was still pending, Wright said.
“But I think there was already a general desire to put this behind us and move forward, in the best interest of what we’re all fighting for in the first place, which is the children,” she said.
Timothy Martino, principal of Frederick Douglass, is among the Leesburg Lightning players.
“We appreciate the way the parents of the Leesburg elementary schools have come together to support our new school,” he said in a statement released by the event organizers.
Boyd, the event organizer, said that 1,600 tickets were available for the game and that organizers hoped to raise several thousand dollars toward a playground.
Once the fundraising starts, school officials will determine a realistic expectation for playground equipment to buy, said Wayde Byard, Loudoun schools spokesman.
Playgrounds at new elementary schools are always paid for by the community, Byard said.
Although the reception to the basketball fundraiser was generally enthusiastic across the community, Boyd acknowledged that some parents had misgivings.
“We had some questions: ‘Why are we doing a fundraiser for somebody else’s school?’ ” she said.
But the PTAs were determined to rally Leesburg around the idea of welcoming the new school and leaving the boundary dispute in the past, she said.
“We want [Frederick Douglass] to have a playground,” Boyd said. “These are our friends and neighbors, and a playground can be used by the entire community. . . . We need to try to rebuild the community spirit, reach out and help each other.”
The game will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Tuscarora High School gym. Tickets bought in advance are $10 for adults and $8 for students. Prices will be slightly higher at the door. Tickets can be bought from any participating elementary school PTA or by going to http://cmsweb1.loudoun.k12.va.us/
domain/5681, printing out the form and returning it to a participating school. People attending the fundraiser are asked to bring a nonperishable food item — such as oatmeal packets, milk boxes, granola bars or canned soup — to support the Leesburg Backpack Buddies program.