School Board May Reopen Attendance Boundary Process for Beacon Hill Area

The Loudoun County School Board will consider reassigning middle and high school students in the Beacon Hill area from schools in Leesburg to schools near Purcellville.

Two years ago, families in the CL 05 planning zone—which includes a portion of the Beacon Hill, Catoctin Ridge and Leeland Heights neighborhoods as well as Leeland Orchards—were reassigned from Leesburg’s Frances Hazel Reid to Kenneth Culbert Elementary School, 9 miles west in Hamilton. They maintained their middle and high school assignments, at Smarts Mill and Tuscarora in Leesburg. But that’s meant that those students—currently about 24 middle school students and 64 high school students—attend Leesburg secondary schools while most of their elementary classmates go off to schools in western Loudoun.

At the request of School Board member Chris Croll (Catoctin), the board will discuss at its meeting Tuesday the possibility of reassigning those neighborhoods to Harmony Middle School in Hamilton and Woodgrove High School near Purcellville starting in the 2019-2020 academic year. According to Croll, Culbert is the only elementary school in the county that has its students go on to attend four different middle schools and high schools.

“I am trying to be fair and adequately gauge interest whether or not we should talk about this because Culbert is an anomaly,” she said.

Just days after Croll was appointed to the board, following Eric DeKenipp’s resignation, she learned that DeKenipp had asked the school system’s Planning Department to start looking into the potential of an attendance zone adjustment.

Croll said she met with several parents in that area, and some were in favor of attending western Loudoun schools and some preferred to stay in Leesburg schools. And those on either side of the debate are passionate about their stance, she added.

Croll sent a survey to homes in the impacted neighborhoods; of the 89 people who responded, 60 percent said they want to attend schools in the west.

“Me bringing this forward as an information item does not necessarily mean I will support any change,” Croll said. “I’m all about fairness, transparency and communication, and that’s all I’m doing is saying we should talk about this. The research I did supports at least bringing it up.”

Any students who are reassigned to attend Harmony and Woodgrove would have a good chance at being approved to continue attending Smarts Mill and Tuscarora, through the school system’s special exception policy.

If the majority of the School Board agrees to initiate a boundary change process, it will likely be under the board’s fairly new policy that allows for an abbreviated boundary change process. According to a staff report on the matter, that policy allows for a shortened review when the change at hand addresses “a small percentage of students [who] matriculate together to a secondary school that may be resolved with reassignment of ten (10) percent or less of current student enrollment of each school involved.”

Planners also said that any attendance adjustments need to happen quickly because high school students will soon begin choosing their courses for the fall.

If the board agrees to move forward, the key dates for the process are Tuesday, Feb. 12, when the Planning Department would give the School Board an attendance zone overview; and Tuesday, Feb. 26, when the board would hold a public hearing and take a final vote on the matter.

School Board Settles for Boundaries Compromise

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