Pen Pals in Alexandria

Pen Pals in Alexandria

School Board seeks to mitigate damage of redistricting.

Moving to a new school can always be challenging for a student, especially if they don’t know anyone at the new facility. So as 474 students prepare to be displaced from their current schools as part of the 2018 redistricting, the School Board is working to help them make new friends.

Dr. Lisa Piehota, director of elementary instruction for ACPS, said at the start of 2018 parents will be notified of their redistricting status. In a quick turnaround, by Jan. 15 they must notify the schools of their intent to return so that school principals can be supplied with a list of students transitioning. School Board Member Margaret Lorber raised some concerns there wasn’t much time between parents being notified that their child would be redistricted and being forced to make a decision about whether or not to keep them enrolled.

According to Piehota, throughout spring and summer of 2018 ACPS will host activities to help parents and students become more accustomed to their new schools. Each school will have a transition team consisting of the principal, school counselor, nurse, and a PTA representative. Principals will send out letters to families transitioning in and help keep them aware of the schedule of events. In April, schools will hold a welcome night for new families along with an orientation packet for the school.

Students transitioning will be assigned a peer or pen pal currently attending the school. Hopefully, the pen pal can help familiarize the incoming student with the new school and give them someone they can know in advance of opening day.

As class lists are developed in June, students redistricted from the same schools will be grouped into classes together where possible. In July, as schools finalize their plans for the start of the year, Piehota said the schools will host different events and activities to welcome families.

While the planning blocks affected brace themselves for redistricting, school board members noted that some still have lingering concerns. School Board Member Veronica Nolan noted that parents in Planning Block 72, previously zoned for George Mason Elementary and now for Charles Barrett Elementary School, were worried that there was not a safe path to walk to the new school and that redistricted students might not have access to proper transportation to Charles Barrett. Piehota said that families who sign up earlier for redistricting will be provided transportation if they meet the necessary requirements.