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Board Adopts Another Boundary Change

Opening Belmont Station Elementary School in fall 2004 will lead to boundary changes for Ashburn area elementary schools.

As a parent and a School Board member, Robert DuPree (Dulles) hoped his Ashburn Farm neighborhood could return to Sanders Corner Elementary School in the fall.

After Dulles North (DN) 28, a subarea designation for Windmill Drive and its offshoot roads, had to change schools four times, DuPree wanted a break for his constituents. What he and his neighbors got was Cedar Lane, the neighborhood's fifth elementary school since 1990.

"To accommodate one neighborhood is a tough thing to ask," said DuPree, who, along with Warren Geurin (Sterling), voted 7-2 against the staff's recommendation for new attendance zones or boundaries for Ashburn area elementary schools. The boundaries, which will go into effect in fall 2004, accommodate the opening of Belmont Station Elementary School in the Belmont Greene subdivision.

Another planning zone, DN 14 for Wayside Circle students, will continue at Sanders Corner, where it has been since the school opened in 1995. Wayside Circle, which is expected to have 129 students next year, and Windmill Drive's 154 students could not be accommodated at the same school, DuPree said. "Shifting kids out to shift kids in is something [the School Board] wants to avoid if at all possible," he said.

The Windmill residents had "made a strong case about a fifth move," Geurin said. "I appreciate Robert DuPree wrestling with this."

THE MOVE means DuPree's six-year-old son will be attending first grade at Cedar Lane next year and that his children, including a son age 18 and a daughter who is 15, have attended a total of 13 Loudoun schools. Since 1990, his children and other elementary school-age students from DN 28 were sent to Arcola for two years, Ashburn for three years, Sanders Corners from the year the school opened to 1999, and Hillside until this year.

"We hope this is the fifth and last. That's what we're going to work for," DuPree said. "I think stability is important."

DuPree asked for an amendment to the staff recommendation, allowing DN 38, which has 26 elementary-age students, to move into the Hillside Elementary School attendance zone. The staff recommendation would have sent the students to Cedar Lane from Mill Run, the school the section currently attends. "I think we should and could accommodate these students in Hillside," he said. "It makes sense for them to stay with their neighbors across the street."

The staff recommendation changes the attendance zones for Cedar Lane, Hillside, Sanders Corner and Mill Run elementary schools and retains those for Ashburn, Dominion Trail and Seldens Landing. Staff reviewed the attendance zones for each of the schools, along with demographic data, enrollment numbers and community input, to develop the new zones.

"Nothing really worked better than the staff recommendation," said School Board chairman Joseph Vogric (Dulles). He pointed out three "problems" for the Ashburn area, including the amount of growth the area experiences, the number of proffered sites it has and the fact the schools are opened "just in time." The School Board aims for the least impact to students by moving them as few times as possible and keeping neighborhoods together, he said, adding, "I can understand the frustration."

"Boundaries are always difficult," said John Andrews (Broad Run). "The questions is when it stops."

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the School Board:

* Approved $15.65 million in general obligation bonds to build a new elementary school (ES-8) in Kirkpatrick Farms, which is scheduled to open in fall 2005. With the resolution, the Board of Supervisors can request the Circuit Court to order a special election or apply for Virginia Public School Authority financing to fund construction of the school.

The school will ease increased enrollment at Hutchison Farm and Little River elementary schools in South Riding in the 2005-06 school year. Together the two existing schools are expected to have an enrollment of 1,907 students, creating a deficit of 341 seats.

"It's going to be absolutely needed ... to reduce overcrowding in the two schools in South Riding," DuPree said.

* Held a public hearing on the Superintendent's Proposed FY 2005 Operating Budget, where eight speakers were signed up to speak about superintendent of schools Edgar Hatrick's proposed budget of $491.6 million, a $101.4 million increase from last year. The speakers stressed the importance of smaller class sizes and salary increases. The budget proposal recommends reducing the secondary class size from 26.6 to 25.6 students and increasing the average salary scale by 4.2 percent for all employees and the teaching scale by another 2 percent to recognize a 15-minute addition to the teaching day.

"We worked hard to keep our salary scales competitive," said School Board member Geary Higgins (Catoctin). "It's hard to play make up."

Following several work sessions, the School Board is scheduled to adopt the budget on Jan. 13 to forward to the Board of Supervisors for final approval.

"It's going to take a lot of public support to get this through, and I plead for your support, especially with a new Board of Supervisors," said Frederick Flemming (Leesburg).

"We require more taxes to fund growth in the schools. It doesn't work to fund them the same every year," Vogric said, adding that if the budget is cut, "We are going to have to make tough decisions."