Debating Boundaries

Debating Boundaries

Residents from Ashburn Farm and Broadlands were at odds with residents from Belmont during the March 27 public hearing on the proposed boundary changes for Stone Hill Middle School. Forty-five Loudoun County residents addressed the School Board Monday night regarding the boundary changes that would displace many of their current and future middle-school-age children.

Stone Hill Middle School is projected to be opened for the beginning of the school year in 2007 and is located in the Loudoun Valley Estates II subdivision.

Ashburn Farm and Broadlands residents expressed concern that the proposed school boundaries would cut their communities in half, forcing their children to stop attending school with their friends from the neighborhood.

Those residents that spoke from the two affected subdivisions suggested the School Board adopt a different school boundary plan, Plan No. 339, that they said kept their communities intact. The plan would allow Ashburn Farm and Broadlands children to continue to attend Eagle Ridge Middle School.

"We have the opportunity to provide kids with a sense of stability throughout their school years," Ashburn Farm resident, Dan Rust, said. "We know our children's friends and their parents. This is our community."

Constituents from Belmont were also concerned about community, but many said that the current staff boundary recommendation was unbiased and based only on the best available data.

"I don't believe a proposal that pushes people outside of the community is a nice thing to do," Belmont resident, Alison Hess, said, referring to proposed Plan 339, which would force many Belmont students to transfer to schools in Leesburg. "I empathize with many that have been impacted in the past, but we urge you to make your decision on what outcome benefits the most people."

The proposed boundaries were created after looking at school-enrollment projections, current school capacities, transportation concerns and existing and future housing development.

PARENTS AND RESIDENTS on both sides of the debate, cited their love for their communities, their hope to give their children a sense of stability, worries of overcrowding and safety and their sense of logic to support their positions.

Scott Hoyt, father of a Belmont Ridge Middle School student, expressed his support for the current proposed plan because, he said, it answered some fundamental questions about his community's bussing and location concerns.

"This plan keeps kids off major highways. By allowing for close proximity it improves opportunity for extra-curricular activities and proximity increases parent involvement."

Almost an identical argument was used by Ashburn Farm and Broadlands residents to explain why the current proposal should be removed in exchange for Proposal 339.

"This [current] plan is illogical," Sue Hedges, told the School Board. "Illogical, in that seeing your school from your house and not going there is illogical. Illogical, in that I can't carpool with neighbors because they live across the road and go to a different school."

While location was the biggest logical reason parents gave for wanting the proposed boundaries altered or adopted, many relied on an emotional appeal for their children and their communities to make their point.

"The staff recommendation tears communities apart," Carl Mitlehner, who brought his two daughters to the hearing, said. "Ashburn Farm is where we shop, where we worship, it's where we bike and where our Boy and Girl Scouts are."

Belmont Country Club resident and mother of two young girls, Leslie Walsh, told the School Board she moved to Belmont before her daughters were old enough to go to school on purpose.

"Our goal was to establish strong relationships and find center of community here to make their school years a success," she said.

AN UNDERLYING CONCERN for the safety of children was heard at times throughout the evening. Parents cited traffic, narrow roads and distance as things that make them worry for their children's safety within the new school boundaries.

"I would like to know that if anything happens, such as a natural disaster, that my kids aren't spread all over the place and in different areas of the county," Broadlands resident, William Rambo, said. "There are a lot of things that you have to consider and, if you spread people out of their communities, it just doesn't make sense."

Vantage Pointe Homeowners Association representative Karen Flicker said there was one thing no one was considering.

"There is a major safety issue as construction trucks will crowd the same roads as the buses to Stone Hill," she said. "This is an accident waiting to happen; with our students on board with no seat belts and with the bus speed limit about to be raised to 45 miles per hour."

Concerns about safety and traffic also brought talk of overcrowding in the schools and new developments being built that would require even more boundary changes in the future. Belmont resident, Lisa Hewitt, who is in support of the proposed boundaries saw the development of Sterling, where she used to live and reminded everyone that "growth is happening. The changes have made everyone a little upset, which is understandable."

The boundary debate is a difficult one and, as Belmont Country Club resident Hoyt, said, "There is no one proposal that will please everybody."