Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibility"You're ignoring us!": Arlington families speak out against proposed school reassignments | WJLA
Close Alert

"You're ignoring us!": Arlington families speak out against proposed school reassignments

Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon
Comment bubble

A Tuesday night community meeting got heated at times, as parents in Arlington voiced concerns about a proposed school assignment shakeup. The plan now being considered by Arlington Public Schools could move several thousand elementary students to different schools.

The school district says the changes are needed to address Arlington's growing population that's causing overcrowding in the classroom. Arlington Public Schools expects to welcome more than 30,000 students in 2021.

The new Reed Elementary School is set to open in the fall of 2021.

The proposal now on the table would shuffle more than 2400 students between different elementary schools, including McKinley, Arlington Traditional, and Key Immersion. The school district has said the majority of McKinley students would be moved to the new Reed Elementary School, Arlington Traditional would move to the McKinley building, Key Immersion would move to the Arlington Traditional building, and the Key building would become a new neighborhood school.

APS says those changes would keep more McKinley students together, and estimates that 40 percent of current McKinley students live in the walk zone for the new Reed Elementary. District staff say that proposal would also create neighborhood seats in the high-growth Rosslyn area and allow future capital efforts to focus on the Columbia Pike area.

Arlington Public Schools expects a final decision in February, though the changes would not take effect until the fall of 2021.

"At the end of the day, wherever our kids going, they are going to have a great education, people who care about them and who know how to help them learn, and we're going to make that transition," said Lisa Stengle, Arlington Public Schools' Executive Director of Planning and Evaluation.

So in advance of a February vote by the school board, the district is holding a series of community meetings. Tempers flared during Monday night's meeting and again on Tuesday, with some parents accusing district staff of trying to "bulldoze through" what families consider a major change.

"They just don't seem to care about their communities," said parent Emilie Heller, who shouted at district staff at several points during Tuesday's meeting, saying they were ignoring parent concerns and refusing to answer specific questions.

Heller, who lives in the Dominion Hills neighborhood of Arlington, said her kids currently go to McKinley. Under the current proposal, she believes they would be reassigned to Ashlawn Elementary rather than the new Reed Elementary.

"So now my kids, along with about 200 others are probably going to move to Ashlawn, where their entire fourth grade is already in trailers. Where are you going to put us?," she said. "I'm a four minute walk to McKinley. It's the reason I bought my house. My kids can walk to elementary school and walk to middle school, but that doesn't matter to the school system. You bring that up, they just shut down."

ABC7 heard similar concerns from other parents at Tuesday night's meeting.

"We are in the part of McKinley that's unlikely to go to Reed. My kids are currently walkers and we really, really enjoy walking to our schools," said parent Fabienne Piccinni, who believes her kids would also be shifted to Ashlawn Elementary and become bus riders if the proposal is approved. "And yeah, there is a lot of passion because we do love our school, McKinley. We love the teachers and we've all invested a lot in that school."

You can view the school district's presentation that was shown during this week's community meetings by clicking here.

"I want to reiterate, this is not a boundary process," Stengle said during that presentation, saying that this is about elementary school planning to help manage growing enrollment and use all available space to full capacity.

The district's full boundary process will take place in the fall of 2020.

Any changes made through the boundary process or the elementary school planning process would not take effect until the 2021-2022 school year.

Comment bubble

"Sometimes what we see, if we talk to instructional leaders, they would tell us children actually do really well with the transitions, it's the parents who have a hard time. We create networks with our community, and you know, that's tough," said Stengle. "But change is okay."

Loading ...