It wouldn't seem like homes separated by a single road could be cleaved into two warring communities, but the school boundary debate has done just that.
Residents of South Riding turned out in force Monday night to tell the School Board why their particular neighborhood should be allowed to stay at Little River Elementary rather than move to Arcola's new Pinebrook Elementary next fall. They weren't the only ones: parents from Belmont Glen and Broadlands also argued for keeping children in the school closest to their home.
"Let's keep walkers walkers," said Stephanie Place, a Broadlands resident with students at Mill Run.
Some Broadlands residents were concerned that the proposed school boundaries for next year didn't alleviate overcrowding enough at Mill Run, which will still accept students from as far north as Farmwell Hunt, which has three elementary schools closer than Mill Run.
Farmwell Hunt resident Beth Roche defended the planning staff's proposal, noting that Farmwell Hunt and Ashbriar have over 200 students and need somewhere to send them.
"We need a school to serve the eastern side of Ashburn," Roche said. "Until then, our neighbors are going to be continued to be seen as the area that overcrowds schools."
IN SOUTH RIDING, there was one thing residents north and south of Poland Road could agree on: no one wants to send children to Pinebrook, which is due to open next fall. Under the proposed plan, only children who live in the area immediately surrounding Little River would attend it; just north of Poland Road, still less than a mile away, parents would have to bus children seven miles to Pinebrook.
Debbie Harwood was one of many Ridings of Blue Springs residents who spoke against the proposed boundaries. The Ridings of Blue Springs is located just west of the county line, south of Route 50 and north of Poland Road.
"I moved so my kids could ride bikes safely," Harwood said. She added that many South Riding residents cut through the Ridings of Blue Springs to get to Route 50. "Had I known that Loudoun County would choose someone else's community over the safety of my children, I might have made a different choice."
"We would all like to feel a sense of community," said Ellen Leiberman, another Ridings of Blue Springs resident. "That would not be possible if our students had to be bused over seven miles to school."
South Riding residents whose children would stay at Little River under the proposed plan voiced their approval of the plan, noting the dangerous nature of sending children down unpaved, narrow Braddock Road to Pinebrook.
BOUNDARY CHANGE is something that parents face every year in eastern Loudoun; some neighborhoods have changed elementary schools several times in the last five years while others, like Farmwell Hunt, managed to dodge the adjustments.
Everyone agrees on one thing, at least: the children have to come first.
Doug McGovern, of Belmont Glen, has two children at Hillside. Under the proposed plan, his children will attend Belmont Station next year.
"This is not a decision to make about the numbers. It is a decision to make about the kids," McGovern said. "Our kids need continuity."
Alam Syed's fourth-grade son at Hillside Elementary wrote a letter to the School Board that his father read aloud at the public hearing.
"If I move to another school, I will be sad and upset," Syed read. "All my friends are at Hillside and when I go to sixth grade, I will be a stranger at Eagle Ridge."