The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Arlington makes a bad move on elementary schools

Parents walk their children to Key Immersion School in Arlington on Feb. 4.
Parents walk their children to Key Immersion School in Arlington on Feb. 4. (Cal Cary/For The Washington Post)
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Last Thursday, the Arlington School Board voted on a set of elementary school moves and closures that will affect more than 2,000 students.

The school board agreed to ignore its existing policy governing school boundary changes — even though new boundaries absolutely accompany these moves and closures. If approved policies don’t guide governance, what does?

The school board dismissed data showing that Arlington could meet demand in high-growth areas through boundary changes alone. What’s more, this would have saved taxpayer dollars by reducing the need for buses and reassigning fewer students countywide.

Most troubling, the school board voted to uproot two school populations with significant numbers of low-income families and black and Latinx students. One of these programs, Key Immersion, will be moved into a building where it will have to try to function at 152 percent capacity. Many Spanish-speaking families won’t be able to move with Key to its new location. Arlington Public Schools staffers say more Latinx families from other parts of the county will be able to access Key if they move the program; the staffers claim they “have talked to a lot of families” who might consider Key in a different location. Apparently, this vague, hypothetical benefit outweighs the actual costs to real people.

Locally and nationally, we need our elected officials to follow the rules, pay attention to the evidence and prioritize equity. The Arlington School Board has fallen short on all three counts.

Mary Kadera, Arlington

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