Friday, February 15, 2008

School Board Votes to "Punt and Buy Time."

Board vote on boundaries keeps Barcroft families at Barrett and McKinley students in place.

“We have a blessed challenge,” Arlington Public School Board Chairman Ed Fendley said. His remark opened a discussion and vote regarding elementary school boundary changes last night. Having many schools that people love, and parents adamant about public education, is a good problem to have, he said.

“We have the opportunity not to solve this issue [of over crowding in some north Arlington schools] with any finality, but we do have an opportunity to take action,” he said.

The board ultimately voted unanimously in favor of a motion put forward by the newest board member, Abby Raphael.


It moves some programs, and changes boundaries affecting only 53 elementary students, a number deemed too small for some of the parents who spoke at the meeting. Largely from Tuckahoe Elementary, these parents said that the proposal which brings Tuckahoe to 103 percent of capacity did not do enough to stem the overcrowding there.

Board member Libby Garvey agreed, although she voted for the measure.

“With this motion, we’re clearly not meeting our charge, but we’ve decided to punt and buy time,” she said. She made one friendly amendment to the proposal by moving the first date that APS staff would report back to the board from May to June 2008.

Ms. Garvey said she was shocked that all the brouhaha over the course of the last couple of months came down to “two planning units and 53 students.”

Planning units are portions of neighborhoods. Generally, when boundaries have been changed, a full planning unit is shifted from one school to another.

K.W. Barrett Elementary School is going to feel some changes under the plan that passed. For instance, Barcroft Elementary parents who do not wish to participate in Barcroft’s year-round schedule will send their children to Randolph Elementary School instead of Barrett in the future.

However, this change neither applies to current Barcroft students who go to Barrett, nor to any of their siblings. They will continue to go to Barrett and to receive transportation there.

In earlier drafts of proposals, various changes would allow students already enrolled to continue at schools. Last night, APS staff defined “enrolled” as students who were in the school in June 2008, not students who “have applied, or have completed their registration forms.”

One MIPA (Multi-Intervention Program for students with Autism) classroom will be moved from Barrett to Abingdon Elementary School in the southern tip of Arlington.

A Feb. 11 proposal, written by APS Superintendent Robert Smith, would have moved planning unit 1410 from McKinley Elementary School to Ashlawn, and 1706 from Nottingham Elementary to Jamestown Elementary in 2009. That change was not part of the motion that passed last evening.

Still, there was no sense that the work to fix overcrowding was complete. Part of the motion establishes two meeting dates, in June and December 2008, when staff will have to come back to the school board to report on progress. As well, the motion calls for the schools to modify the charge of its Advisory Council to include “providing an annual review and recommendations concerning school capacities and projected enrollments.”

“This proposal just guarantees that we’re back here having this same divisive fight in a year…because you’re not going to do enough on this,” said Tuckahoe mother Michelle Kisloff, who said she was frustrated with the outcome, but appreciated the hard work of the board. “But I thank you all for your time. See you all next year, same time, same place."

Related stories and sites…
  • Final Motion Accepted by APS School Board, Feb. 14, 2008 (Two-page MSWord Document)
  • The HeraldTrib's List of Links and Stories

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