Alexandria: School Redistricting Forums Begin

Alexandria: School Redistricting Forums Begin

Reading between the lines.

Current School District Lines

Current School District Lines Photo Contributed


Current School District Lines

“What I’ve been telling people is that we’re all wedded to the principle of minimizing the number of transitions we have to make.”

— School Board member Margaret Lorber


Schedule for upcoming redistricting forums.

After 17 years of static school lines, Alexandria City Public Schools is making motions to begin the process of redistricting. By the start of the 2018 school year, new school lines that incorporate two new schools and other expansion projects will cause shifts in school populations across the city.

“It’s not known which schools will be most affected,” said Ramee Gentry, School Board member and head of the Redistricting Committee. “But even with creative use of building space, we can’t fit all of the children in the current schools.”

The process is in its early stages and no definite lines for new school districts have been established. The process was originally scheduled for the start of the 2017-2018 school year, but at a School Board meeting on Sept. 29 the board agreed to push the implementation of the redistricting process back until the start of the 2018-2019 school year. Gentry said that a 2018 implementation allows more room for flexibility surrounding the West End School and Patrick Henry School construction schedules.The Patrick Henry site expected to open September 2018 for that school year. The West End School is scheduled to open in 2017, but Gentry said the redistricting committee was planning with potential delays in mind.

“This times nicely with multiple projects coming online,” said Gentry.

But while the new lines haven’t been drawn, Gentry also noted that redistricting won’t impact just the west end.

“The population has grown everywhere,” said Gentry. “This is truly a city-wide need. There have been changes throughout the city since 1999.”

Several questions about redistricting remain. Gentry said the School Board hasn’t decided whether or not the redistricting will include any grandfathering of students, allowing them to stay in their same schools past that school’s redistricting. Gentry says once the new boundaries are determined, it would allow the School Board to make that decision based on knowledge of how many students would remain in each school.

“Every decision has an impact in the other direction,” said Gentry.

As the process goes on, some on the School Board have said the schools need to more sharply define what the priorities will be for redistricting.

“At some point, we need to make a statement about prioritizing these priorities,” said School Board member Margaret Lorber. “What I’ve been telling people is that we’re all wedded to the principle of minimizing the number of transitions we have to make.”

Lorber said there are other interests that need to be considered as well, like walkability for the schools and the surrounding neighborhoods.

“Rest assured, we’re all really united on that,” said Lorber. “At some point, we have to take a stand on some of these priorities.”

The redistricting review committee is scheduled to proceed this fall with redistricting analysis. The committee will host four public forums as the process begins. The first meeting will be held on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Francis Hammond Cafeteria. On Oct. 19 and Nov. 14, meetings will be held in the George Washington Middle School Media Center at 5:30 p.m. The final forum will be on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. in the John Adams Cafeteria.