News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Redistricting: Let the people speak! Or not.

The first of three public meetings to discuss redistricting options involving South Lakes High School and Oakton, Herndon, Westfield, Madison and Chantilly will be held next week, Nov. 12 at Chantilly High School, to be followed by a Dec. 3 meeting at Westfield and another on Dec. 19 in Oakton. But no worries -- nothing's set in stone. Right, FCPS official Dean Tistadt?

“We have no preconceived, already-developed plans on how to accomplish [redistricting],” he said.
Maybe, but South Lakes' ongoing renovations, in progress for longer than most students have actually attended the school, will be finished next fall, putting the school more than 500 students under capacity, and there's no way the system will let that extra space stand empty.

So folks at Herndon High School are worried that redistricting would pull kids from Reston's "astronaut schools" -- you know, the so-called "good" schools in North Reston -- out of Herndon and put them at South Lakes. Given that Herndon isn't particularly overcrowded at the moment, that's a valid concern, since pulling kids there would most likely gut AP programs and other electives.

But it's the folks in uniformly affluent, tree-lined Oakton who are making the most noise about redistricting. They've launched two websites -- and, the latter of which is run by attorney Richard Bolger of Oakton Woods, where property values range from around $758,000 to more than $1.2 million. With such awesome socioeconomic diversity, it's like they're going to South Lakes already! And with such a well-organized campaign, they should welcome a public forum to air their concerns and work toward a consensus, right?
“If I had my way we wouldn't have the meetings,” [Bolger] said. “Fix the problem, but don't do it by redistricting.”
One valid concern, aside from the minor detail of uprooting kids from their schools and their friends, is that none of the potentially affected neighborhoods are anywhere near South Lakes. Even Herndon High School, which currently pulls tons of kids from Reston, is a good 25-minute drive away. And with the exception of the tens and tens of kids in Great Falls who go to Langley, no parent in his or her right mind is going to be happy about that kind of distance from any school -- particularly high schools which start at an ungodly hour in Fairfax County. (Those blurry figures you see milling around your neighborhood at 6:30 in the morning aren't paperboys -- they're high school freshmen on their way to the bus stop.)

This being DC, Bolger's group has gathered more than 2,000 signatures on an online petition and formed a PAC, which endorsed several independent school board candidates, including Christine "If I thought Reston was bad, I wouldn't live here" Arakelian, who made hay from this very subject during her unsuccessful campaign.

Meanwhile at South Lakes, folks are touting their rigorous IB program and gains in SAT scores.
South Lakes Principal Bruce Butler has been working evenings trying to educate parents about South Lakes and dispel what he said were “urban legends” about the school.

“These are not folks whose kids go to our school. It's folks who have never been in our building,” he said.
Tisdadt offered up the only prediction on this process we'd be willing to bank on:
“I fully expect almost every single person that will be moved will be unhappy about it,” Tistadt said.


  1. Actually I think redistricting would put students closer to their high schools. Especially in the case of the Madison High School attendance island which is in Reston. Students there are further from Madison, adn certainly much further from Thoreau Middle School, than South Lakes and Langston Hughes.

  2. Yeah, but here's the thing: I'd feel better about all the people up in arms about the prospect of redistricting if they were upset because their kids might have to go to Langley or Oakton instead of the other way around.


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