Capital planning this year and an instructional framework process will inform future plans for capacity
October 5, 2020—Today, Arlington Public Schools (APS) published a proposal for new elementary school boundaries for 2021-22. The proposal creates attendance zones for the new neighborhood school at the Key site and for McKinley in the new facility at the Reed site, both of which will open in Fall 2021, as well as neighborhood boundaries around Arlington Science Focus School (ASFS). Approximately 1,400 students—13% of Grade K-5 neighborhood school students—would be reassigned from seven schools: Ashlawn, ASFS, Glebe, Long Branch, McKinley, Taylor and Tuckahoe. The School Board is scheduled to adopt new boundaries on December 3, 2020.
Nearly half of the 1,400 students reassigned in this proposal are current ASFS students who would attend the new neighborhood elementary school at the Key site, which is in closer proximity to where they live than their current building. In addition to these 1,400 students, about 500 McKinley students will move with their school administration and staff to the new building at the Reed site, putting nearly 60% of its students in the school’s walk zone as compared to 28% at the current McKinley site.
APS had planned to address boundaries for most, if not all, elementary schools in 2020; however, given the disruption of the pandemic and the strain on families, APS Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán narrowed the scope of the process to minimize the number of students reassigned to another school and keep more students together as much as possible. This modified approach includes the use of relocatable classrooms to manage enrollment and places more students within walking distance or a shorter bus ride to their assigned neighborhood school. The proposal would result in a net gain of about 800 more students who can walk to school, with 19 out of 20 neighborhood elementary schools containing their entire walk zones within their boundaries.
“We recognize the stress that families are experiencing at this time and we are looking to make limited elementary school boundary changes this year. We want these adjustments to allow flexibility so we can continue to address enrollment growth through capital planning and future boundary processes,” said Superintendent Dr. Durán. “Our long-term priority is to address capacity needs informed by a plan that puts equity and instruction front and center, and that ensures we consider the overall needs of our students and school division rather than focus on an individual school, department or topic. This is a change we must make as we move from being a system of schools to a school system.”
At some schools, APS will manage enrollment for one or two years with relocatable classrooms, program moves and other options. APS will continue to monitor enrollment and undertake an additional elementary school boundary process in other areas when more normal operations resume, and within the next two years. Future processes will be guided by the PreK-12 Instructional Program Pathways (IPP) framework that establishes multiple pathways for student success within the blend of APS neighborhood schools and options/programs.
The boundary process this fall is part of a long-term APS planning initiative to ensure sufficient elementary school capacity and follows a School Board decision in February to address a large imbalance across the county between where students live and where APS has capacity. APS will continue planning to provide elementary school capacity where it is needed, particularly at the western end of Columbia Pike, with the upcoming Fiscal Year 2022 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
Community engagement for this boundary process began in May with an early review of data and methodology with stakeholders; staff worked over the summer to use this input in refining the data to be used in developing new boundaries. Data used in this process comes from elementary school student enrollment on September 30, 2019. In follow-up to gathering community input, staff worked with Arlington County to review and verify questions and make adjustments to data on housing developments. The results of this process and final data were shared online.
There are additional opportunities for community engagement this fall to gather input on the boundary proposal. To view the proposal, data, timeline, engagement activities, and FAQs, visit www.apsva.us/engage/fall2020elementaryboundaries/. Virtual Community Meetings will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Wed., Oct. 7 and Wed., Oct. 14, with simultaneous interpretation. A Community Questionnaire in five languages is available through Oct. 20; stakeholders can share input by answering questions online in English and Spanish, or by reviewing the questionnaire in the preferred language and calling 703-228-6310 to leave a voice message with input in Amharic, Arabic, Mongolian and Spanish.
The School Board will be presented with the Superintendent’s recommended proposal on Thu., Nov. 5, and will hold a Public Hearing on Tue., Dec. 1, before adopting new boundaries on Thu., Dec. 3. School moves and new boundaries for elementary schools will take effect for the 2021-22 school year. For more information, visit www.apsva.us/engage/fall2020elementaryboundaries/.