Brace Yourself, Loudoun. Complicated School Attendance Changes Coming

20,200 students. Two middle schools. Two high schools. And four different opening dates.

This could get complicated.

This week, Loudoun’s School Board began to redraw attendance boundaries for a huge swath of the county, setting into motion a process with a lot of moving parts.

The changes could impact students in as many as 31 schools, from as far north as Ashburn to as far south as Chantilly, as school system leaders work to relieve overcrowded schools and prepare for the opening of Brambleton Middle School in August 2017 and the yet-to-be-named high school (HS-11) on the same campus in August 2019.

But as they shift attendance lines for those two schools, they also are accounting for the opening of two more schools: a middle school (MS-7) and a high school (HS-9), both planned for the Dulles South area. MS-7 is planned to open in August 2018 on a site along Braddock Road, and HS-9 is planned to open in August 2021, but the school system does not yet have a site for it.

“What’s complicated is the timing of the opening of so many schools,” Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) said at the first work session on the boundaries Thursday.

Sam Adamo, executive director of the school system’s Department of Planning and Legislative Services, unveiled his staff’s recommended boundary map during the work session.

It assigns students who live north of Rt. 50 but currently attend middle and high school south of Rt. 50 to schools to the north, including Brambleton Middle School and HS-11. It also splits the Brambleton community, sending some to the new middle school and high school.

“We looked at whether we could have all those kids in one school, but with the growth along Evergreen Mill Road we don’t think that’s really feasible,” Adamo said.

[See full details of the plan here.]

He told the board to take careful consideration as it considers which neighborhoods to reassign to avoid students changing secondary schools again in a few years. Not an easy task since the school system does not yet have land for HS-9, set to open in 2021. “If the school is in a site that were not anticipating, then we’ve moved the wrong group,” he said.

Adamo suggested two options to get through what he called “an enrollment hump” between school openings. He said the board could use eight trailers that the School Board approved as part of its Capital Improvement Program; this is a different set of trailers than the eight slated to be placed on the John Champe High School campus to house Mercer Middle School eighth grade students. His second suggestion was to temporarily house sixth- and seventh-graders at Mercer Middle School, eighth- and ninth-graders at Brambleton Middle School and 10th– through 12th-graders at John Champe High School.

School Board members Joy Maloney (Broad Run), Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) and Beth Huck (At Large) said they are concerned that students will be moved several times in their secondary school career.

“It seems we have situations where one student will go to two different middle schools and two different high schools. That’s what we don’t want to have happen,” Maloney said.

Adamo said he doesn’t anticipate that happening. But the division may need to be flexible and consider assigning students from the Brambleton area north into Ashburn schools. That would free up much needed seats in the Dulles North and Dulles South planning areas.

“We know we have an enrollment crisis there,” he said.

Students at the following 31 schools could be reassigned: Hillside, Mill Run, Ashburn, Discovery, Dominion Trail, Aldie, Arcola, Buffalo Trail, Pinebrook, Creighton’s Corner, Legacy, Rosa Lee Carter, Cedar Lane, Sanders Corner, Newton-Lee, Seldens Landing and Steuart W. Weller elementary schools; Eagle Ridge, Farmwell Station, Mercer, Belmont Ridge, Stone Hill, Trailside and J. Michael Lunsford middle schools; Briar Woods, Broad Run, John Champe, Riverside, Rock Ridge, Stone Bridge and Freedom high schools.

Public hearings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 4, Monday, April 11, and Monday, May 2, with a final vote to adopt an attendance map Tuesday, May 10.

The public hearings will be held at the school administration building, 21000 Education Court in Ashburn.