Parents Get in Last Word

Parents Get in Last Word

It was standing room only at the final public hearing for the proposed Stone Hill Middle School attendance boundaries. Residents of Ashburn Farm, Belmont and Lansdowne once again ended up on opposite sides of the fence over the new boundary.

Department of Planning and Legislative Services' proposed plan splits Ashburn Farm, transferring some of the community's middle-school-aged children from Eagle Ridge Middle School where they currently attend. Ashburn Farm residents support different plans staff members considered, which keep their community together, but split Lansdowne and send both Lansdowne and Belmont students to Harper Park Middle School in Leesburg.

The hearing brought out 77 speakers and many more citizens who came to hear their neighbors speak. Dressed in red, dozens of Lansdowne residents who live in the area that could be affected came to show their support for the current plan.

"Rumor has it that the board thought we weren't being vocal enough," West Goose Creek neighborhood resident, Sonya Kalian, said. "There are about 30 of us here tonight."

Kalian's section of Lansdowne is made up of around 200 houses and has 41 children that could be affected by the new boundaries.

"I am wearing red to show love, love that I love the school zone we are in currently," Kalian said. "I understand the impact that moving schools has on children and I want to spare my children that 'pain.'"

Stone Hill Middle School is projected to open at the beginning of the school year in 2007. It is located in the Loudoun Valley Estates II subdivision.

AS AT THE other two hearings, residents on both sides of the debate cited the best interests of their children as support for their arguments. Ashburn Farm residents were concerned about the how changing schools and leaving their friends in their neighborhood would affect their children.

"The proposed staff plan negatively impacts my children and promotes instability," Ashburn Farm resident Linda Anderson told the School Board. "Middle school is tough enough without having to make new friends during your awkward years. Keeping communities together should be a high priority when making school plans."

The largest concern for Belmont and Lansdowne residents is their children's safety when being bussed to schools miles away from their homes.

"There are three big rocks involved in this issue: Lansdowne, Belmont and Ashburn Farm," Tag Greason, a Belmont Country Club resident, said. "This proposal keeps all big rocks out of harm's way. Proposal 339, while it might look good on paper, takes my big rock and throws it into a raging river. We want to keep our kids off of Route 7 and putting school buses on Route 7 does not make sense for this big rock."

Belmont resident Mark Consani, who has one child at Belmont Ridge Middle School, reminded the parents in the audience what they were all actually there for.

"The common thread is we want to keep our children consistent, with a sense of stability, and, most importantly, we want to keep them safe," he said.

WHILE RESIDENTS continued to state their opposing views to the School Board, many also took their time to express empathy and understanding for those on the other side of the debate.

"If anyone doubted that all politics is local, they just need to come to one of these," Michael Capretti said, before he spoke in support of the staff's proposed plan.

Belmont resident Laura Heltebran, said she wished it was possible to find a solution that everyone could be happy with.

"I feel compassion for our neighbors in Ashburn Farm," she said. "I would like to join with them to find a solution, but we cannot align ourselves with something that is not in the best interest of our children."

Many Ashburn Farm residents told the board they were tired of being rezoned and their children moved from school to school.

"Our section has been flip-flopped from too many schools," Ashburn Farm resident David Schulte said. "I don't have a speech or stats or gas mileage, I am just in support of Ashburn Farm as a community."

"Ashburn Farm paid their dues," Anderson said. "No plan is going to please everyone, but I do think past history should be a factor in deciding boundaries.

The School Board will make its final decision on Stone Hill's school attendance boundaries April 25.