Questions for Staff

Questions for Staff

School Board discusses South County boundaries at work session.

With less than a month remaining until the boundary for South County Secondary school is modified, the School Board spent over an hour and a half discussing two other boundary studies during its work session Monday afternoon, Jan. 22. Twenty minutes was set aside to discuss the South County boundary, which may move students from Lorton Valley and Lorton Station neighborhoods to Hayfield Secondary school.

When Board member Kaye Kory (Mason) suggested postponing discussion of the boundary due to time concerns, it was decided that the Board would instead address only new questions regarding the recommendation made by the Office of Facilities Planning chair Gary Chevalier on Dec. 21. No new information or options were to be presented.

Board member Stephen Hunt (At-large) suggested a little more time be given to discussing this boundary study, as any changes that may be suggested to the recommendation might require another public hearing to better inform parents of those students who might be changing schools in September.

"Our number one priority right now is to get things on the table that might lead to another public meeting," said Board Chairman Dan Storck (Mount Vernon).

Brad Center (Lee) asked if a list of questions he had submitted to Chevalier and Fairfax County Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Dean Tistadt could be addressed. Most of his questions were directed toward capacity at Lake Braddock Secondary, which was originally included in the boundary study as a possible provider of relief for the overcrowding at South County.

Chevalier answered Center's list of questions, stating that Lake Braddock has more flexibility in housing extra students than any other school in the county.

WHILE LAKE BRADDOCK parents and PTA members have protested that any extra seats there are only projected, Chevalier said the capacity at the school will continue to decrease through 2011, when the enrollment is projected to be 2,094 in the high school and 1,228 students in the middle school.

The larger question was whether the recommended changes would be enough to bring South County under or to capacity after the changes are phased in over five years.

"Basically, South County would stay where they are now," Chevalier said.

Board member Stu Gibson (Hunter Mill) asked why the county facilities staff chose to ignore one of its goals for boundary studies in drawing boundaries with respect to "natural or man-made boundaries," in this case, Interstate 95.

"What you're talking about is, if you draw boundary at I-95, we'd be talking about leaving Lorton Valley in South County and moving out students east of that?" Chevalier asked. Gibson and Center agreed, and Chevalier said the difference would be about 150 students.

"There's no easy even exchange that would give us the same number of students from two neighborhoods," Chevalier said. "But you could create islands, depending on how creative you want to be."

Changing the recommended boundary and moving different students might change the demographics at both South County and Hayfield, and said he'd try to obtain that information for a future Board work session.

"Could you do one other scenario?" Center asked. "There's a north-south boundary to South County, along Lorton Road. I'd like to see what those numbers would look like, if we sent kids to the north to Hayfield and kids to the south were left at South County."

Storck said he wished more time was available to discuss the boundary study and the current recommendation, but asked if it would be possible to look at the South County boundary in terms of which elementary schools would be involved in the study to establish the boundary for the Laurel Hill Elementary school, which will be determined in a study in 2008.

"I'm looking for an assessment of where and what potential we might have and how that might influence the boundary we draw two years from now," Storck said. "We don't have an answer right now but we might as well look into it. We don't want to move kids again in two years if we move them this time around."

BEFORE MOVING on to another topic, the Board agreed to discuss the South County options at length during a work session scheduled for Monday, Feb. 5.

Center said he was surprised by the lack of time and consideration given to this boundary during the meeting.

"None of us expected that, we expected to have a full-blown discussion of the options, but we're going to have to do that later," Center said. "There's no other work session scheduled ... before the vote." That vote is currently scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 22.

It would be possible to delay the vote on the South County study if needed, but Center said he didn't think that would be necessary.

At the start of the meeting, Tistadt did urge the Board to take action on all three boundaries next month.

"Doing nothing is not an option," he said. "All these schools need some kind of relief. If you don't like our recommendations, that's fine, feel free to make changes, but don't make the decision not to change."