The 2020 Elementary School Boundary Policy B-2.1-Boundaries outlines the conditions that require APS to adjust neighborhood school boundaries and create new attendance zones. These include when a new school opens and when a school building’s projected enrollment is expected to be significantly over capacity across projections. The policy explains the six policy considerations to be used in APS boundary processes: efficiency, proximity, stability, alignment, demographics and contiguity.
The objectives of the 2020 Elementary School Boundary Process are to:
- Create attendance zones for the new school at Reed and for Arlington Science Focus School to be situated within its boundaries
- Address projected overcapacity at neighborhood schools
- Maximize school building capacity to accommodate the growing need for seats at the elementary school level
- Make efficient use of existing facilities and APS resources in meeting the growing student enrollment at the elementary school level
In addition to the six School Board policy considerations, the following guiding principles were developed with instructional leaders and other staff to shape the planning during the 2020 Elementary School Boundary Process:
- Adhere to walk zones as much as possible
- Balance demographics among schools when possible
- Use existing space to maximum efficiency
- Increase operational efficiencies to keep more resources in the classroom
- Put instructional needs at the forefront to guide planning processes
This boundary process will be conducted in four phases from November 2019 through June 2021 (see timeline below).
The Challenges APS Faces in the 2020 Elementary School Boundary Process
The first phase of the boundary process is a planning process to address the challenge of using all elementary schools to full capacity given the imbalance between where elementary school students live and the available neighborhood seats across the county. APS seeks to do this in a way that makes efficient use of resources and keeps the majority of students in each school community together.
- Enrollment projections for 2023-24 show rapid growth of elementary school students concentrated along the major transportation corridors, including Rosslyn-Ballston, Columbia Pike and Route 1, where APS does not have enough neighborhood school seats.
- The opening of the new elementary school at Reed will create a surplus of neighborhood elementary school seats in one part of the county (see map 2: Gap Between Projected Elementary Students and Future Seats in SY 2023-24).
- The map uses 2023-24 enrollment projections to show where the numbers of elementary school students is expected to grow in comparison to where APS has neighborhood seats.
- Zone 1 is projected to have more permanent seats than students (+116 seats) due to the additional 725 seats available with the opening of Reed in 2021.
- Zones 2 through 4 are projected to have a combined need for 906 seats (Fall 2023-24).
- Among these zones, the greatest need for seats (-399) are slated for the six schools in the vicinity of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor (Zone 2), followed by nine schools in the vicinity of the Columbia Pike corridor (Zone 3), and the two schools in the U.S. 1 corridor (Zone 4).
- Revisions to the Options & Transfers policy in 2017 changed the designation of a neighborhood/option school in the in Rosslyn-Ballston corridor to an option program only.
What-If: Potential Impacts on the Upcoming Boundary Process
This map (What-If Scenario for Planning for the 2020 Elementary Boundary Process) is a visual representation of a “what if” scenario that shows what boundaries could potentially look like in September 2021, given the challenges APS faces today. This map demonstrates, for discussion purposes, the long, extended boundaries that would be required if APS uses existing schools efficiently (to maximum capacity).
For example, under this “What If” boundary scenario:
- Approximately 4,300 or 41% of all neighborhood elementary students would be reassigned to a new school;
- Nearly half of neighborhood schools would lose some of their walkable planning units;
- Almost 700 students who currently could walk to their neighborhood schools would be eligible for bus transportation, adding approximately 12 buses to our fleet of almost 200 buses.
Phase I (November 2019 through January 2020): Using a countywide perspective that takes the needs of all students into account, APS planning will focus on challenges and opportunities in working to achieve the objectives. Community engagement will begin by November and extend through January, during which APS will inform stakeholders and gather input via multiple communication channels.
Phase II (April through May 2020): The second phase of the process is to examine and update data at the planning-unit level before APS develops boundary scenarios. This is a step undertaken before every boundary process, and will include:
- Review most current data showing number of resident students in all Planning Units
- Identify Planning Units that have grown significantly and might potentially be split
- Gather input from community members who can provide insight on their neighborhoods’ data
- Propose any recommended changes in Planning Unit structure
This phase will include community engagement which will focus on gathering new or additional information to ensure data at the planning unit level is accurate and up to date. Projections by Planning Unit are prepared only for boundary processes; typically, these are prepared by school level. This was last updated at the Planning-Unit level prior to the 2018 Elementary School Boundary Process.
Phase III (September through December 2020): In Fall 2020, APS will develop new boundaries for elementary schools that will take effect in the 2021-22 school year. APS boundary processes follow School Board Policy B-2.1-Boundaries, which includes the policy considerations to guide the process. Community engagement for this phase will begin in September 2020 to inform families and gather their input as APS develops boundary scenarios to present to the School Board.
Phase IV (December 2020 through June 2021): The final phase of this process will begin after the School Board adopts a new elementary school boundary map. APS will notify families of student reassignments through multiple communications methods, and will work with staff and families in scheduling school visits and making the transition a smooth one for all students. APS will hold Kindergarten Information Night in January 2021 to provide families with the information they need for the 2021-22 school year.