As part of the latest round of school attendance zone boundary changes, the Loudoun County School Board may reverse its strategy of dispersing students from Leesburg’s poorest and most ethnically diverse neighborhoods.
It’s a complicated issue that grows more complex because of the myriad motivations at play. There should be only one motivation that counts: What is best for the students.
It has never been clear that the policy of busing students from their neighborhoods in the northeast section of town to schools on the outskirts was in their best interest. It is a strategy not employed elsewhere in Loudoun, even in areas that share the socioeconomic characteristics.
The heat of the annual boundary zone battle is not the forum to conduct a thoughtful analysis of the options. That’s how the scheme was concocted in the first place. The result was some sort of social experiment, with an unclear method of measuring the outcome.
Caught in the middle is a population that is one of the least likely to sway the outcome of the decision. They don’t often participate in the political process. Families who can’t afford to transport their children to after-school activities aren’t likely to drive to a School Board meeting in Ashburn to share their views on boundary line changes. Ironically, these families need the support of their children’s schools even more than the typical Loudoun family.
Students there are just as deserving of attending a neighborhood school as those in other areas of the county. The case could be made that such an approach would allow administrators to more efficiently target resources and support programs that have demonstrated success in helping these students overcome their challenging life circumstances.
Conversely, the current approach might be generating exceptional outcomes—results that wouldn’t be expected if those students all attended their neighborhood school together. We don’t know.
Before School Board members open a new round of experimentation, they should thoughtfully evaluate how to create the best learning environment for these students. After all, isn’t that the standard everywhere else?