We told you FIRST three (3) months ago that redistricting was on the horizon. See the timeline above.
The Alexandria City School Board announced this past Thursday that it was starting the work of redistricting elementary schools across the city, in an effort to reduce overcrowding and strengthen the sense of neighborhood schools.
In shifting the boundary zones for schools for the start of the 2016-2017 school year, the School Board intends to balance enrollment needs across the entire division and create suitable learning environments in each school. Crowded conditions are proven to have a direct impact on the delivery of instruction and the use of core spaces, like cafeterias and libraries.
“Redistricting doesn’t add more space to solve our city-wide capacity issue, but it will balance zones to match our growth. Most importantly, it will benefit the hundreds of families who are currently displaced from attending their neighborhood schools,” said School Board vice-chair Chris Lewis.
The last time Alexandria City Public Schools changed school boundaries was in 1999. Since then, ACPS enrollment has grown by more than 3,200 students. Student enrollment is projected to rise by four percent every year for the next five years.
Considerable numbers of students are currently transferred out of their neighborhood school and bussed to another school because of a lack of space. There are currently 247 students zoned for Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School and 152 students zoned for William Ramsay Elementary School who attend other schools in ACPS across the city. The majority of these are bussed to other schools because of lack of space. This can contribute to a sense of alienation and break down the feeling of a school being at the heart of a community.
“When we add new schools or additional classrooms or notice an imbalance in enrollment, we need to look at boundary modifications to make sure our schools are serving our instructional needs. Crowded schools are not good learning environments and we want to ensure every child has the environment they need to succeed,” said Superintendent Alvin L. Crawley.
Any boundary modification will take into account the Long Range Educational Facilities Plan findings, drawn up jointly by ACPS and the City. It will also include a review of existing policies such as Modified Open Enrollment, Regulations Governing ACPS Pupil Placement, School Attendance Areas and Admission of Homeless Children and take into account information regarding elementary enrollment transfers.
“The long range planning work, along with a thorough School Board policy review, sets in place the process for future building and capacity decisions over the next 20 years. Our West End and secondary capacity projects are needed now to address capacity issues. We need to find the funding as a city,” said School Board Chair Karen Graf.
In April, the School Board and ACPS staff will finalize the framework for redistricting that includes the timeline and the process. There will then be extensive public consultation in the form of student and community engagement, public hearings and multiple discussions at School Board meetings. The final proposal is likely to go before the School Board in February 2016.
The changed district lines would ideally come into effect for the start of the 2016-2017 school year. Parents and students will have an opportunity to visit their school, meet with the principal and staff and participate in scheduled open houses and school events in spring 2016.
ACPS and the School Board aim to ensure that the process surrounding the change of school boundaries, the timeline, activities and decision-making throughout the process is clear and transparent.