Saturday, January 12, 2008

Smith's Plan: Barrett Loses Barcroft, Gains Part of Ashlawn

Smith's plan cuts at least 40 from Barcroft and other classes, gains 42 from Ashlawn.

Many Barcroft Elementary School students and three other classes, over 40 students in all, will leave K.W. Barrett Elementary School at the end of this year if the recommendations of Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Robert Smith are accepted by the school board. He will formally present these recommendations to the board Thursday Jan. 17. A public comment session has been set up by APS for Tuesday, Jan. 22.

In recommendations released late Friday, Mr. Smith said he studied the ideas posited by the Elementary Crowding and Capacity Committee, a group of 25 community representatives from all the elementary schools in Arlington. However, the tight adherence the ECCC paid to keeping the school boundaries the same was largely ignored in his recommendations.

Given that many schools lost entire planning units (sections of neighborhoods) under the plan, Barrett Principal Terry Bratt said, “I thought we came out really well.”

She said she views the superintendent’s recommendations as another part of the overall overcrowding discussion. The school board does not have to follow the recommendations made by the superintendent or the ECCC.

“I don’t want to lose anybody, but I thought overall, I thought we came out well,” she said, given that none of Barrett’s eight planning units was removed. Two planning units, 42 students according to the report, formally in the Ashlawn School boundary would move to Barrett under the plan.

Although Peter Constantine, the Barrett representative to the ECCC said he believes Mr. Smith was thoughtful in his approach, he said the superintendent’s recommendation “clearly is intended to fulfill the charge, but it ignores the bigger issues that the Arlington community has said they value.” That is, walk zones to neighborhood schools, and diversity among others. Under the ECCC plan, no boundary changes were made.

Mr. Constantine also admitted that the superintendent is facing the same basic problem the ECCC faced, that of easing the crowding either by offering as many choices as possible, or by changing boundaries. He said it was a difficult decision.

Black lines show original boundaries. Color coding shows which planning units go together. Click to enlarge the image.

“The ECCC really did put a primacy on not moving boundaries,” Mr. Constantine said.

The recommendations had leaders at Barrett scrambling. A PTA meeting has been set for Monday night to address the issue.

“Barrett is going to move quickly to review, and decide what course of action it intends to take,” Mr. Constantine said.

Barcroft Elementary School is the only school in Arlington on a year-round teaching schedule, and parents in its boundaries have had the option to send their children to Barrett Elementary. About 15 students at Barrett live in Barcroft, according to numbers from earlier this year.

Under Mr. Smith’s proposal, only Barcroft fourth and fifth graders, along with their younger siblings, would remain at Barrett. This issue of “grandfathering” in students from other schools has been a hot button on the ECCC.

“I think Grandfathering is going to be an issue,” as the discussion moves forward, Mrs. Bratt said.

Connie Sherman’s son, Bradley Pollard, is a kindergartener in Mrs. Golden’s class. They live in the Barcroft neighborhood.

“It sucks, that’s my reaction,” Ms. Sherman said of the recommendations. Under the plan, Bradley would attend either Barcroft or Randolph elementary schools.

She said she felt “pretty in tune” with the work of the ECCC, and that rumors she heard about the grandfathering first said Bradley would be OK, then it was third grade she heard as a cut-off, and now it’s fourth grade and higher.

She said she would not have chosen Barrett last spring if she’d known this was going to happen.

“I guess what bothers me most about it is Bradley is already in Barrett. He already loves the school…He’s already made a bunch of friends,” she said. Moving “is going to be really difficult for him.”

Related Sites from Around the Web…
  • APS’s Enrollment and Capacity of Schools page
  • ECCC’s Recommendations and Proposals (an 74-page MSWord Document)
    Related stories from the HeraldTrib…
  • APS Chair Ed Fendley Speaks to Barrett PTA
  • Barrett Parents to Bring Concerns to School Board
    Related stories from other papers…
  • Crowding Committee Makes Recommendations (Arlington Connection, Jan. 8, 2008)
  • Date Set for Public Hearing on School Boundaries (Sun Gazette, Jan. 6, 2008)
  • 2008 Could Bring Elementary-School Boundary Battles (Sun Gazette Dec. 27, 2007)
  • Boundary Clash (Arlington Connection, Nov. 6, 2007)

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