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Residents Talk to Board about Boundaries

Since Centreville isn't the only community getting a new school, the boundary public hearing scheduled for Feb. 10 stretched out over two nights, this week, in front of the Fairfax County School Board.

Between Monday and Tuesday, some 120 residents came to Luther Jackson Middle School and voiced their opinions on proposed boundaries for four new schools and six new GT centers.

And although not everyone was happy, on the whole, the comments about the new northeast Centreville elementary slated to open in September were favorable. The school is in Centreville Farms, off Route 29 and Stringfellow Road, and will help ease overcrowding in other local elementaries.

It will enable enrollment to be adjusted at nine other elementaries: Greenbriar East and West, Poplar Tree, Brookfield, Centre Ridge, Centreville, Union Mill, Willow Springs and Providence (in Fairfax City).

Beginning last fall, parents worked with Gary Chevalier and John Bertocchi, of the school system's Facilities Planning Services, at public work sessions to develop a boundary scenario for the new school. In the end, Option 3 was selected as seeming to meet most people's concerns.

Discussions also involved what to do with extra space at Union Mill Elementary. Several areas showed interest in being moved to that school, including the Little Rocky Run townhouse community, Balmoral and the Willow Springs Elementary attendance area west of Clifton Road. At the same time, members of the Union Mill community worried about possible, future overcrowding at their school.

Option 3 keeps the enrollment numbers at Union Mill near capacity, while trying to address the split feeder at Willow Springs. In this plan, the Willow Springs area west of Clifton Road (Cavalier Woods, Clifton Forest, Centreville Green) — which is the only area of Willow Springs assigned to Liberty Middle and Centreville High — would be assigned to Union Mill, thus eliminating the split feeder. The Balmoral community would also go to Union Mill.

During this week's two hearings, some parents wanted more than just third-graders to go to the GT center at Oak Hill Elementary. Bertocchi said the school system will survey parents, later this year, to see if there's enough interest to support having a GT class there at each grade level.

"The initial proposal was to start a GT center at Oak Hill in 2003 for third and fourth grades," said Oak Hill parent Becky Donatello. "But without warning — and after just one public discussion — this was changed to third grade only. As it stands now, our children will continue to have to travel to Greenbriar West for the next three years. They'll have to wait outside the doors of Oak Hill for their bus for 20 to 30 minutes, while the new Oak Hill GT students file past them, the door to their neighborhood school closing behind."

Regarding boundaries for the new school, Jerry Hooge, Anne Erickson and Carrie Bannon were among Balmoral residents speaking in favor of Option 3. Since their children now attend Centreville Elementary, they want them moved, instead, to Union Mill — which is much closer to their homes.

"Option 3 allows my children to go to a school that is 1 1/2 miles closer to our home than their present elementary school," said Bannon. "[It] allows my children not only a shorter bus ride, but a safer [one]."

Union Mill parent Richard Wright said the school community is excited about the new students and their families who'll join them in September. He said they'd be welcomed warmly and given tours and information to help with their transition.

But some residents of the Little Rocky Run townhouses were upset with Option 3 because it doesn't let their children attend Union Mill, too. Instead, they'd continue traveling to far-away Centre Ridge and Centreville elementaries. They'd much prefer that the entire Little Rocky Run community attended Union Mill (as do residents of that neighborhood's single-family homes, closer to Liberty Middle School).

Also in that proposal, students at Brookfield Elementary are earmarked to stay where they are and not move to the new school. Their parents said that was fine, but they asked that Brookfield be given additional resources to accommodate the needs of all the students there.

Likewise, some parents of children at Poplar Tree Elementary — such as Marion Woods Homeowners Association Pres. Dennis Kacoyanis — said they were glad to be remaining at that school. He said he was pleased that Facilities Planning listened to his community's concerns and kept their children at Poplar Tree Elementary.

More specific information about the proposed boundaries is available on the school system's Web site at www.fcps.edu. The School Board will hold a work session, Feb. 24, on all the boundary scenarios and GT center plans. Members will then vote on everything, Feb. 27.