Educate Don’t Segregate, the activist group formed during the contentious Leesburg elementary school attendance boundary process, is continuing its efforts to support the town’s low-income students and those still learning English.
As the Loudoun County School Board redrew attendance boundaries earlier this year, the Educate Don’t Segregate group vocally opposed one idea floated that would have assigned a high percentage of students considered academically at risk to two schools closest to their neighborhoods. The group advocated assignments that would more evenly disperse those students throughout the central Loudoun schools.
Parents involved in the group say they want to do what they can to provide more resources for those families that were at the heart of the attendance debate.
Now under the name Community Advocates for Education, the group’s stated mission is to “advocate for the best outcomes for all students in Central Loudoun and to foster greater community involvement.”
Ahead of the new attendance map’s adoption in March, board members highlighted that some Leesburg schools’ test scores fell behind those at other Loudoun County elementary schools with even higher numbers of low-income and English language learner students.
Lydia Pellow, co-chairwoman of the group’s community outreach efforts, said that Community Advocates for Education wants to provide resources—as well as connect families to already available resources—to help the schools meet those students’ needs.
“So if there’s going to be another boundary process in a few years and there’s a chance that a lot of at-risk students would be assigned to just two schools, we want our schools to be prepared for that and make improvements so there’s no argument to be made for doing that,” said Pellow, whose children attend Leesburg Elementary School.
Their initial campaign will be to connect families whose primary language is something other than English to community services, such as language classes. “Because we feel like supporting those families helps their kids do better in school,” Pellow said.
The group also is putting together lesson plans and remedial materials that will be ready for parent volunteers to easily pick up at the school and use to tutor students.
They also will coordinate ways for parent-teacher organizations to share “institutional knowledge” about practices that are working to get families involved in their school communities. “What we learned was some schools are doing this better than others,” Pellow said.
Another priority is to push for public bus stops closer to schools so parents can more easily attend conferences and PTO meetings and connect with the school community. The lack of public transportation for families who live across town from where their children attend school was a point of contention during the boundary process.
Leesburg’s representative on the School Board, Tom Marshall, said good did come out of the boundaries process, including community members rallying to support the schools going forward. “It’s fantastic,” he said. “It really does take a village, and I’ll support them as best I can.”
The elementary schools with higher percentages of low-income and English Language Learner students also will receive more help from the school system, he added. Evergreen Mill Elementary will get funding to hire additional staff members, and Leesburg and Frederick Douglass elementary schools will receive some additional support from an instructional facilitator, who will provide ongoing professional development to teachers.
The School Board will not be able to provide as many new staff members as it had planned in its initially adopted budget, but those schools will get a bit more help, Marshall said. “I think it’s really going to be a good thing.”