News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Redistricting: A Tale of Two High Schools

If it's fall, it's time to broach the ever-touchy subject of school redistricting once more. From our in-depth reporting (flipping through a nearly week-old copy of the Connection we found on the sidewalk), here's the crux of the situation:

South Lakes, which is continuing a never-ending renovation, is under capacity. Herndon High School, which is just under capacity, currently takes in the students from Reston's so-called "good schools" -- you know, the ones named after astronauts, in North Reston, and they'd rather take on more students than lose their Restonites. Here's how one Herndon High School parent describes the situation:

Areas served by Aldrin and Armstrong account for 750 seats in Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors classes at Herndon. Losing those students could have a tremendous impact on Herndon’s ability to offer AP and Honors classes to its students in the future.

And band, too! Meanwhile, South Lakes' PTSA is talking up their school's diversity and its excellent, if still unconventional, IB program.
""We are just happy to have an opportunity to tell our story of what a great school South Lakes is," said Vandenburg.

So, what to do? One solution posited by Herndon parents involves putting a voluntary magnet program at South Lakes, so people who want their kids to go there can. That's an approach that's worked before in both Reston (Hunters Woods Elementary's magnet program) and Herndon (Herndon Elementary's French-immersion program).

Of course, what no one's bothering to point out is that the IB/AP programs already unwittingly serve that same purpose -- kids who live within South Lakes' boundaries who want to take AP classes can apply to go to Herndon, and Herndon kids who want IB classes can do the same.

Confused? Well, let's bring the Westfield kids into the mix:
Aside from not wanting to move their children from their respective schools to South Lakes, some parents in the affected communities have also brought up South Lakes' reputation as a reason to not move their children to the Reston high school.
Here we go again. Christine Arakelian, who's running for the Hunter Mill seat on the Fairfax County School Board, was criticized at a forum at South Lakes High School for perpetuating that reputation as part of her campaigning. Her response?

"If I thought things in Reston were bad I would not live here," she said.

Wow. As sound bites go, that ranks up there with some other Churchillian political statements.


  1. I have lived within one block of SLHS for more than 20 years. Our two sons have graduated from SLHS, one going on to Emory, the other to Wooster (OH) on scholarship. They both had excellent experiences at SLHS. They have benefitted from its diversity, its AP program, and its superior fine arts program.

    The notion that SLHS is a "bad" high school has the status of urban legend by this time, but it is pure bunk. Time for parents and Board of Education candidates to get by this scurrilous view.

  2. No kidding. Funny how it's always the people who don't have kids in schools who seem to know just how bad they are.

  3. Perhaps those people simply compare the facts at the state website, rather than anecdotal stories by supporters of their neighborhood school:
    Anyone who compares South Lakes to Madison or Oakton will see that parents have legitimate concerns.


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