Loudoun County School Board members can’t seem to agree on how much flexibility to give the superintendent to redraw attendance boundaries to free up classroom space for full-day kindergarten.
In meetings throughout June, School Board members have debated a proposed policy change that would allow Superintendent Eric Williams to recommend an expedited process for boundary changes under specific circumstances. Those include: converting a traditional school to a charter school, addressing a new housing development that would otherwise cause overcrowding at a school, addressing minimal overcrowding that can be resolved with reassigning 10 percent or less of a school’s students, and in any unforeseen emergencies.
That last one could give the superintendent an option to recommend that the board shift attendance boundaries to make room in several schools for full-day kindergarten programs.
Williams told the School Board on Tuesday that at least five schools in Ashburn and the Leesburg area will not get full-day kindergarten unless attendance boundaries are adjusted, modular classrooms are installed, or classroom additions are built.
“It gives a tool to the board to expand FDK. … It’s not a commitment to approve any plan; it would just give you an option,” Williams said.
Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) said the School Board always has the option to adjust boundaries to free up more kindergarten classrooms through the traditional, longer boundary process. Current policy requires the board to hold several public hearings and work sessions ahead of adopting any boundary changes.
But board member Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) said there is not enough time to do a full round of multiple public hearings and work sessions ahead of kindergarten registration for the 2018-2019 school year.
School system planners have told him that expedited boundary processes to make “slight, targeted” adjustments would allow for Lucketts and Cedar Lane elementary schools to have full-day kindergarten, Hornberger said. “If we do not adjust the policy in this instance, we have effectively taken away a tool to bring full-day kindergarten to at least these two schools and maybe others … and that’s a shame.”
Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin), who is skeptical that any boundary changes would be minor, told his colleagues, “It would throw central Loudoun into chaos. I don’t see how this is a feasible solution for full-day kindergarten.”
At DeKenipp’s suggestion, board members decided to push off a vote on the new policy until its next meeting in August. They asked senior staff members to provide more detail about which schools could be targeted for accelerated boundary changes, with the goal of expanding a full school day to more kindergartners.