Less than two months after a judicial ruling ended one of the most heated school boundary disputes in Loudoun County history, the School Board once again faces the inherently controversial task of adjusting elementary school attendance zones — this time in the Dulles North and Ashburn area.
Thirteen schools in eastern Loudoun could be affected by the redrawing of attendance boundaries to allow for the opening of two new schools: Moorefield Station Elementary and Discovery Elementary. The boundaries would go into effect when the schools open next fall, each with a projected population of about 875 students, school officials said.
Last year, Leesburg families filled School Board meetings and hearings to speak out on new attendance zones to accommodate the opening of Frederick Douglass Elementary School. After the previous board adopted a plan in December that relocated about 1,000 students, residents in two communities filed petitions to request that the board’s decision be reviewed in Loudoun County Circuit Court. In August, Judge Thomas D. Horne ruled in favor of the School Board.
On Oct. 3, the first public hearing to address the Ashburn and Dulles North rezoning seemed to forecast a less contentious process. Slightly fewer than a dozen speakers addressed the board, expressing concerns typical of rezoning discussions: Parents wanted their children to stay at their current schools to avoid long bus rides and inconvenient commutes, and to keep community members together.
As Loudoun schools have grappled with soaring student enrollment in recent years — a reflection of Loudoun’s status as one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation — the Ashburn and Dulles North region has seen its own share of growth, said Sam Adamo, executive director of planning and legislative services for the Loudoun public schools.
In a presentation to the School Board before the public hearing, Adamo told board members that the county’s public school population has risen by almost 90 percent since 2001. In 2002, the system had about 37,500 students enrolled; as of last month, Loudoun public schools were educating slightly fewer than 68,000 students.
In the Ashburn area alone, six elementary schools have opened since 2001, Adamo said.
“Since 2002, elementary enrollments in this area of Loudoun have more than doubled, increasing by 130 percent,” he said.
The rapid growth and frequent building of schools to the area means that some families in surrounding communities are already familiar with the process of being considered for a different school. The Ashburn and Dulles North area was last rezoned in 2008, meaning that no current elementary students have gone through a boundary change, school officials said.
Jake and Maureen DeArmitt, who have three children at Mill Run Elementary School, said that they understood that the boundary process was necessary but that they hoped community members would stay together at their current school.
“Like everyone else, we’re deeply rooted in the community,” Maureen DeArmitt told the board. “We’re an older community. We have ties; we want to stay together.”
Lakellia Moore, who has lived in Ashburn for three years, told the board that she moved to Loudoun specifically because of the schools.
Moore said that her family lives within walking distance of Ashburn Elementary and that the prospect of her daughter possibly being bused to another school prompted her to address the board.
She said she hoped the board would be “looking at the students who are walkers and taking them into consideration, to not have them bused further away,” she said.
Of the 13 schools that could be affected by new attendance boundaries, nine have walk zones, school officials said.
A couple of the speakers at last week’s hearing said they hoped their families would be switched to the new schools, because they were closer to their homes.
Nicole Towers said her children attend Creighton’s Corner Elementary, “the 10th-furthest school from our neighborhood. It’s been quite an ordeal for my kids. I’m very excited for Discovery to finally be coming.”
Like other parents, Towers also urged the School Board to focus on keeping school clusters together, to prevent students from being separated at the middle or high school level after having attended classes together since kindergarten.
The School Board has scheduled five additional public hearings regarding the Dulles North and Ashburn rezoning: on Tuesday, Oct. 22, Nov. 1, Nov. 7 and Dec. 3. Three work sessions, which will also be open to the public, will be Oct. 18 and 29 and Nov. 5. All meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Loudoun County School Administration building in Ashburn.
Residents can share their thoughts and concerns with the School Board and staff members by attending the work sessions, speaking at the public hearings or contacting the School Board, school officials said.
Copies of written comments received by the Loudoun schools’ Department of Planning and Legislative Services — via e-mail at email@example.com or by mail at 21000 Education Ct., Ashburn, Va. 20148 — will be provided to the School Board and the division superintendent, officials said.
The School Board is scheduled to adopt new school attendance zones for the Dulles North and Ashburn area at its meeting Dec. 11.