Parents who formed the group, “Educate Don’t Segregate,” are calling for a public discussion on what school assignments are best for Leesburg students.
The group is planning a community meeting from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m. Tuesday at Rust Library, 380 Old Waterford Road NW, in Leesburg.
The parents are protesting a proposal by the Loudoun County School Board to return hundreds of students to schools in their neighborhoods. It would reverse a 2012 board decision that distributes about 700 elementary students living in apartments and townhouses near Edwards Ferry Road and Plaza Street to schools as far as three miles away. But it would also concentrate most of the town’s low-income and Hispanic students to two schools, Leesburg and Frederick Douglass elementary schools.
The group supports keeping the boundaries drawn so that low-income and non-English speakers are dispersed throughout the town’s schools, according to a letter its members wrote to the School Board.
The board is considering 12 proposed attendance zone boundary maps. The most recent proposal, Plan 12, seems to have gained the most favor from board members because it sends students to the school closest to their homes that has space. They are set to adopt a map Tuesday, March, 28.
[See related article, “School Leaders Eye Paradigm Shift for Leesburg Boundaries.”]
Sarah Bauer, a parent who’s involved in Educate Don’t Segregate, said, ironically, she is opposed to the plan that would benefit her family most (Plan 12) because it counters what research shows most benefits students. Plan 12 would keep her students in a Leesburg school, while other proposals would assign them to Kenneth Culbert Elementary in Hamilton.
“There is so much evidence of the benefits of socioeconomic integration, and that’s what we’re trying to keep in Leesburg,” she said.
Even if board members ultimately decide to reverse the board’s 2012 decision, Bauer’s hope is that it will come only after a meaningful community discussion on what results in best educational outcomes for students.
“Even if we go back to neighborhood schools, let’s look at the effects and invite everyone to weigh in,” she said.
School Board members who support revamping school assignments have cited their own set of research. They said that eastern Loudoun elementary schools with more than 70 percent of low-income and non-English speakers have made impressive test scores in recent years because the school system has provided them with additional staff.
It would do the same for Leesburg and Frederick Douglass elementary schools, Debbie Rose (Algonkian) said during a March 14 meeting. “We can take what they’ve done and apply it in these schools. … We have authority here to find a way to solve the problem.”
In an interview today, School Board member Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) said the Educate Don’t Segregate group is implying that the board is developing attendance zones based on students’ ethnicity or economic status.
“That’s completely untrue,” she said. “We’re basing boundaries based on proximity to where they live and taking into account the benefits of having a school within their neighborhood, a chance to be involved in school activities, summer school, giving parents easier access to attend parent-teacher conferences…all of the same criteria that we look at for every other LCPS student across the district.”
She added that under Plan 12, “The students who have been zoned based on ethnicity and economic status can now return to their neighborhood school just like every other student across Loudoun.”
[See more on the boundary process: “Debate Over Race and Class Surface in School Boardroom.”]