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Sunday, December 5, 2021
ArlingtonDownscaled boundary-adjustment process likely this fall

Downscaled boundary-adjustment process likely this fall

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Arlington’s public-school leadership has so much on its return-to-classrooms plate already – ya think? – that a massive boundary-adjustment process is just not in the cards for now.

School officials are planning for “only those adjustments that must be done,’ said Lisa Stengle, the school system’s executive director of planning and evaluation, during an Aug. 26 briefing to School Board members.

The reason for the small-ball approach to changes is perhaps self-evident. The school system’s ability to project enrollment has been significantly disrupted by COVID, and there is no guarantee that particular roller-coaster ride will be over any time soon.

“Until we get a good handle on it, we don’t want to make long-term changes that we might have to re-do,” Stengle said. “We want to be cautious. We’re not doing as much as we [earlier] thought we would do.”

But there are changes being proposed for the 2022-23 school year. Among them:

• Moving some students from Wakefield High School to Washington-Liberty High School to even out enrollment disparities.

• Moving some students from Gunston Middle School to Thomas Jefferson Middle School for the same reason.

In each case, it appears unlikely that students already in the schools will be asked to move, although because Wakefield is bursting at the seams, students there could be given the option to voluntarily transfer to Washington-Liberty next fall.

Also under consideration:

• Moving some students from Abingdon Elementary School to Charles Drew Elementary School.

• Adjusting the attendance areas for Arlington’s two English-Spanish immersion elementary schools, and working to create a balance of half native-Spanish speakers and half English-speakers at the schools.

No staff proposal will be firmed up until school officials get the official 2021-22 enrollment figures, which will be based on the number of students in class on Sept. 30. After that, staff will make a formal proposal to the School Board, with a planned Nov. 30 public hearing and action on Dec. 2.

School Board members seemed happy not just that the contentious topic was being addressed early, but that parents were being given opportunities to weigh in before the formal proposal is made.

School Board member David Priddy called the staff ideas a “road map” for future discussion, and urged the public to “comment now rather than wait until it actually happens.”

School Board member Monique O’Grady also praised the effort to get a head start.

“It’s important, at the beginning of the school year, to know where we’re going,” she said.

Stengle said staff, who in some past boundary-adjustment efforts have been accused of marching to their own drummer and ignoring community feedback, would keep parents looped in to “make sure they know what’s going on.”

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