Gary Chevalier admitted, first and foremost, that trying to sort out the best possible resolution to the West Springfield High School boundary study has been "a difficult process."
As chair of the Fairfax County Public School's Office of Facilities Planning, Chevalier has led two town meetings, filled with parents from West Springfield and Lee High Schools, listening to their concerns about changing the boundaries of those two schools. During the Jan. 12 School Board meeting, it was time to give his recommendation as to what changes should be made to the boundaries.
Following a short presentation, Chevalier said he and his staff have decided to recommend that the Daventry neighborhood, where children currently go to elementary and middle school together before most go on to West Springfield and only 20 or so children go to Lee High School, should be consolidated into West Springfield.
Two neighborhoods, Daventry and Rolling Valley, faced similar problems, Chevalier said, but the Rolling Valley students are split from their peers at the elementary school level.
"We knew we could bring in one school without having to move anyone out of West Springfield," Chevalier told the board. "In the 1980s, Daventry was moved away from West Springfield into Lee. From the time that move was approved , they've lobbied to get back into West Springfield."
A total of 20 students per year would be added to West Springfield, Chevalier said, starting with the 2006-07 school year, if the School Board approves this recommendation at its Feb. 23 meeting. In the meantime, however, two public hearings are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 30 and 31, at Luther Jackson Middle School.
"We felt this move would be beneficial, but we know this process has not been easy for the community," Chevalier said.
THE BOUNDARY STUDY was prompted last year when the boundaries for the South County Secondary School were being finalized. When it was decided that students from South Hunt Valley would be moved into West Springfield, parents there raised concerns about the school becoming overcrowded. During the past few months, however, the focus has appeared to shift from overcrowding at West Springfield to eliminating the handful of split feeder schools that serve the West Springfield pyramid.
If the Daventry students are moved into West Springfield, it would put the school "a little over capacity," Chevalier said, but families with students in the International Baccalaureate program or other courses at Lee would have the option to remain there.
Members of the School Board expressed concern for Chevalier's recommendation, asking why they should support consolidating the Daventry students while allowing the Rolling Valley students to remain divided.
"West Springfield is a small school compared with other high schools we have," said board member Cathy Belter (Springfield). "West Springfield is only able to take a certain amount of students, and you have Lee that doesn't have as many students. There's not much diversity at West Springfield, Lee has it," she said.
Belter also questioned Chevalier's decision to leave Rolling Valley out of West Springfield.
"We understand they'd like to go to West Springfield too, but there's not room for us to do both," Chevalier said.
Board member Janet Oleszek (At-large) asked Chevalier if it was "our policy to eliminate split feeders."
Chevalier said it was not. He added that his office had not considered moving Rolling Valley students into Key Middle School, where most students who go on to West Springfield attend, because "we don't want to put more students into a school during renovations."
A HANDFUL of parents attended the meeting and they said they were disappointed with the recommendation.
With small children at home, Anne McEvoy said she was upset with the "lack of forward thinking" demonstrated by the Facilities staff.
"I want my children to go to West Springfield," McEvoy said. "They're proposing to overcrowd the school, which probably means there will be another boundary study."
Looking to the South County Secondary School boundary study, it is difficult for parents to have faith in the School Board's decision, said parent Kevin Brown.
"Their projections were way off with South County," he said. "The whole reason for this study was to correct the missteps they took last year with the South County process. They never should have put South Hunt Valley into West Springfield," Brown said.
In addition, schools like Hayfield Secondary School, which lost many students to South County, and Lake Braddock, which is currently in the middle of a large renovation project, are going to be under capacity, Brown said, while West Springfield becomes further over capacity.
"Looking at the boundaries, it looks like they're trying to get West Springfield Elementary School out of West Springfield High School and put them into Lake Braddock. That's what we believe the motive is, to put more people into Lake Braddock," he said.
"We're here because there is no guarantee that the action they're taking will not be reviewed again," said Chris Kroeger, an Orange Hunt Elementary parent. "This is just compounding the problem that started last year."