With Arlington’s student enrollment now projected to be considerably lower in coming years than once anticipated, School Board members this week are likely to call off a planned elementary-school-redistricting process that had been slated for the fall.
“Small boundary adjustments” may still be needed, but a countywide look at elementary-school-boundary switcheroos would be off the table, under a proposal from Superintendent Franciso Durán.
That may be a relief to School Board members, as few issues tend to raise the ire of parents more than tweaking boundaries.
Not that long ago, Arlington school leaders were projecting an almost never-ending arc of student growth for the system. In 2017, the reported student body of just under 27,000 had surpassed the previous high, set at the apex of the Baby Boom in 1963.
But pre-pandemic prognostications that enrollment would surmount 32,000 by 2026 have now been scaled back, with the student population now expected to peak at just under 28,000 in 2025 and then begin to decline.
Some of that revised-downward thinking may be due to parents who pulled their students from locked-down and/or “virtual”-only APS during the pandemic and are not coming back. But more of the change seems to be related to the county’s ever-changing demographic trends.
(As even the experts will admit, attempting to project populations with any degree of accuracy more than a few years ahead is more a crapshoot than a science. One assessment of the data in 2017 concluded that it was possible – albeit not necessarily probable – that enrollment could hit 39,000 before beginning to recede.)
Should any elementary schools be projected to require boundary changes to keep them from bursting at the seams, school leaders will make an announcement by late October and set up a community process before making final decisions.