Mill Run Still Too Big?

Mill Run Still Too Big?

New elementary schools in the Dulles and Ashburn areas may not ease overcrowding at Mill Run; boundaries still subject to debate.

Mill Run Elementary School's fourth and fifth graders attend class at neighboring Eagle Ridge Middle School. It's a compromise that has worked, but only as a short-term solution. Mill Run principal Paul Vickers doesn't expect Eagle Ridge to have extra space for his students next year.

"Last year, with only one campus, we did a thousand students in this building," said Vickers, who describes himself as "an eternal optimist. We were able to have a thousand students in here and we made it work very well."

Currently, Mill Run has 1,117 students, with nearly 1,400 projected for the 2004-2005 school year. It is the largest elementary school in the rapidly-growing Ashburn and Dulles south areas. With three elementary schools opening in the area next fall, Mill Run is also at the heart of the boundary debate: those projected 1,400 students could be drastically reduced by a shifting numbers game.

LEGACY, IN BRAMBLETON, Newton-Lee, by Belmont Country Club and Pinebrook, in Aldie's Kirkpatrick Farms, are the three new schools that could ease the load at Mill Run. But redrawing school boundary lines is a contentious issue for parents, who worry about uprooting their children. Parents gathered in a series of community input meetings last week to discuss concerns with Dr. Sam Adamo, director of planning for Loudoun County Public Schools.

"We know this affects your most precious gift in life, and that's your child," Adamo said to parents at Mill Run on Oct. 27. He explained that in a county as rapidly growing as Loudoun, new schools open every year — forcing boundary changes every year as well.

"It's difficult for me to tell parents that change is going to be ongoing," Adamo said. "We are anticipating opening a school a year just to keep up with the growth. I can't kid you and say this is going to be your first or last boundary change."

The school planning staff presented several different scenarios where different boundaries affected projected school size over the next five years. Most of them kept Mill Run as the largest or near-largest school in the area — or piled students on at another school that would become overcrowded.

Cliff Keirce, who has two children at Mill Run, was dissatisfied with the staff's options. He created his own new boundary map — and has gotten the support of 80 families.

"My primary concern next year is trying to provide relief to Mill Run," Keirce said. "I would like to see that any plan next year make sure that is taken care of."

Dorrie Retivov has a son at Mill Run and is no stranger to boundary change — as a resident of Ashburn's Farmwell Hunt subdivision, every year in recent history has provided potential boundary change for the neighborhood's children. Retivov has faith in the process.

"They really do listen," she said. "They listened to us last year."

WITH 3,500 NEW STUDENTS projected for next year and five new schools on the way (a sixth, a Leesburg elementary school, is up in the air until land is purchased for a site), determining school boundaries is a year-round process for Adamo and his staff.

"There's going to be a vigorous discussion," he said. "This is not a painless process. It's just one of give and take."

The planning staff will make a recommendation to the school board at its Nov. 9 meeting, followed by public hearings. A final boundary map will be adopted by Dec. 14.