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Freedom Hill Elementary School parent Pam Slipakoff told School Board members Wednesday night that she worries the board is moving too quickly in its decision to shift students from Freedom Hill to neighboring Lemon Road Elementary.

“We all know that Freedom Hill is overcrowded and Lemon Road is not. However there are far too many unresolved issues to move forward with this fast-track plan,” she said.

Freedom Hill’s capacity is currently at 116 percent, and is projected to increase to 136 percent by 2016, according to Fairfax County Public Schools staff. Conversely, Lemon Road’s capacity is at 72 percent, and projected to decline to 59 percent by 2016.

According to the school system staff report, “Freedom Hill relies on eight classroom trailers to accommodate current enrollment growth while Lemon Road relies on student transfers from out of boundary to bolster enrollment.”

Among the proposed options discussed by staff and commented on by parents, the School Board has received the recommendation to approve Option B, which would offer crowding relief to Freedom Hill by using capacity at Lemon Road. Option B, staff said, would also limit the impact on demographics at both schools, a concern Lemon Road parents had expressed. Option B would shift about 100 students from Freedom Hill to Lemon Road.

Several parents who spoke at a public hearing Wednesday night before the School Board agreed with Slipakoff that many of their questions on the shifting of students specifically where resources were involved—remained unanswered.

“First and foremost we are concerned about resources,” Lemon Road teacher Karla Barnes said. “We are concerned about having enough human, material and physical resources to effectively meet the needs of all of our students next year.”

Educators at the school, she said, are concerned about Lemon Road’s ability to absorb 100 students by fall 2012.

The School Board previously approved a $2 million, eight-room addition to Lemon Road, which would be used to aid additional student growth. However, parents said this addition should have been discussed separately from the Freedom Hill-Lemon Road boundary study because it raises concerns about the impact on traffic and student safety.

“Our community has not been given any real opportunity to provide any input on the additions,” said parent Charles Kimmett, who voiced support for Option B. Lemon Road parents called on the School Board and FCPS staff to meet with the Lemon Road community sometime this month to discuss the timeline and impact of boundary adjustments.

A common theme within public hearing comments made by Lemon Road parents was that the school was willing to take more students and accept them into their community. The question, however, remained ‘what is the best way to do so?’

“As the lucky parent of a second-grader in a class of 11 students, I understand that Lemon Road is currently under capacity. By all means Lemon Road should be utilized at its full capacity to help alleviate overcrowding at neighboring schools,” said Lemon Road parent Kristin Brace.

She asked for the School Board to address issues concerning long-term solutions to area crowding within schools. Parents like Brace said they were concerned that the Freedom Hill-Lemon Road boundary shift would only be one in a line of adjustments, rather than a long-term solution.

The School Board is scheduled to discuss options on Monday during its regular work session. A vote is scheduled for Thursday, April 26 during a regular business meeting of the School Board.

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