main banner

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Evans seeks feedback on options for new elementary school

The construction site for
the new school.
“We’re on a very fast train” for making key decisions about the new elementary school in Annandale, Mason District school board member Sandy Evans told residents of the Broyhill Crest neighborhood at the community association’s annual meeting March 22.

The new school, under construction on the site of the former Lacey Center, will open at the start of the 2012 school year. Evans says it will be red brick with light brick trim and will have a forest green roof. A new principal is expected to be in place by spring 2012, which will provide plenty of time for planning and assembling a staff.

An ad hoc committee of local residents developed several options on setting boundaries for the new school and determining the grade configuration. Evans says Fairfax County Public Schools staff members “will come up with recommendations based on what we hear from the community.”

She expects the school board to then present three options to the public. Public hearings will be held July 11 and 12, and the school board will vote on a final plan July 28.

But, Evans says, “by the time it gets to hearings, it’s pretty much done.” She urges people to attend upcoming community meetings on the issue and let the school board know their preferences. An online survey will be available until April 1.

“There are people that are going to be unhappy” no matter what the final decision is, she acknowledges.

One of the key decisions to be made is whether the new school will have grades K-5 or K-6. The ad hoc committee also looked at the possibility of K-8, but Evans says “that is off the table.” While it’s a creative idea, it would require a complete redesign of the school and that’s just not feasible.

Both K-5 and K-6 options have pros and cons, and parents tend to prefer whichever configuration their current school has, Evans says. When it comes to which option is better in terms of instruction, “there is nothing to suggest one is better than the other.” One factor that favors the K-6 option is its impact on relieving overcrowding at nearby middle schools.

The committee recommended that whatever boundary plan is approved should minimize “split feeds,” with elementary school populations split among more than one middle school. That might be difficult, though, because most of the middle schools are overcrowded. If there has to be a “split feed,” the committee recommended that the split be fairly equal.

Evans says it’s “99 percent likely” that the new school would have full-day kindergarten. It would probably be a Title I school, which means it would have smaller class sizes and more resources. She also hopes it will have an advanced academics program. A decision on which programs the new school has is crucial in determining how many students it could serve.

Among the several boundary options considered by the ad hoc committee, Evans says scenarios B and D appear to be the most viable. Scenario D would shift some students who now attend Beech Tree and Annandale Terrace to the new school. Scenario B would also take some students from those two schools plus some from Belvedere and Columbia. [There are maps outlining all the proposed scenarios in the ad hoc committee report.]

In addition to capacity and enrollment, Evans says, some of the priorities the school board will look at in setting boundaries are the need to keep neighborhoods together, walking distances, and the need to have a demographic mix among schools. The plan for the new elementary school also has to work with the options under consideration for relieving overcrowding at Annandale High School.

Several Broyhill Crest residents at the meeting expressed the hope that all children who live in the neighborhood will be assigned to the new school. Currently, most go to Beech Tree but a small part of the neighborhood goes to Woodburn. Evans says she heard from some residents of that area who said they want to stay at Woodburn. She plans to get more feedback from parents.

No comments:

Post a Comment