One week before it signs off on new attendance boundaries for elementary schools in the southern end of the county, Loudoun’s School Board heard from a dozen parents at a final public hearing on the matter Tuesday night.
School assignments need to be adjusted in that area ahead of the opening of Goshen Post Elementary School next fall and to relieve some of the county’s most crowded schools. The new school is under construction on land next to John Champe High School along Northstar Boulevard.
The attendance zone changes could impact students at five Dulles South elementary schools: Buffalo Trail, Hutchison Farm, Liberty, Little River and Pinebrook.
The School Board has narrowed the proposed attendance maps to four options: one proposed by Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) called Plan 3, another drafted by Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) called Plan 4, and two others drawn up by Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) and Beth Huck (At Large) called Plan 6 and Plan 7.
The plans have a lot of similarities—they all reduce enrollment counts at the most crowded schools and take into account that some attendance lines in that area will have to be shifted again in when another new elementary school (ES-29) opens in 2023.
Plan 3 would reassign a total of 1,057 students, fewer than the other plans, and makes it so fewer families will be reassigned a second time when ES-29 opens. Plan 4 is similar, “but the primary difference is when it comes to the balance between Hutchison Farm and Liberty,” Morse said. Plan 4 leaves more students at Hutchison Farm, while Plan 3 would leave more students at Liberty.
The highlight of Plan 6 is that it assigns most of the Greens at Willowsford neighborhood (planning zones 7.3 and 7.4) from Buffalo Trail to Goshen Post. Plans 3 and 4 would split them, keeping students in 7.3 at Buffalo Trail and sending students in 7.4 to Goshen Post. “We don’t want to split them up just to reunite them later,” Turgeon said, noting that 7.3 would likely be assigned to ES-29 when it opens.
It also keeps a small neighborhood north of Rt. 50, called 6.6, at Aldie Elementary School, to free up space in Goshen Post for those Willowsford students.
Plan 7 differs from Plan 6 in that it assigns the last piece of the Greens at Willowsford, planning zone 7.1, with their neighbors at Goshen Post.
Most of the parents who approached the board at the final boundary public hearing Tuesday were from the Willowsford neighborhood.
J.T. Wilson told board members that his children ride a bus past two other elementary schools to get to Buffalo Trail Elementary and, when Goshen Post Elementary opens, they would be riding past three elementary schools. He supports plans 6 and 7 that would send his neighborhood to the new school.
“Buffalo Trail is really far from our zone. Our kids spend way too much time on the bus,” he said, noting that they board at 7 a.m. and get home at 3:15 p.m. each day. “It’s a long day for them to spend in transit and not in the classroom.”
Several other parents asked that their children be allowed to stay at their current school. North Riding resident Asheesh Chhabra, who has a second-grader at Liberty Elementary, said he and his neighbors are tired of changing schools every few years. He prefers plans 4, 6 and 7—but especially Plan 4. “I think this plan really helps stabilize the eastern part and brings the most stability going forward,” he said.
The School Board will vote on a final boundary plan Tuesday. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at the school administration building, 21000 Education Court in Ashburn.