Three options proposed for removing students from crowded Fairfax High School are being frowned upon by parents who say the choices are both unfair and do not solve capacity concerns at the school.
Erin Quinnette, the mother of a senior and a freshman at Fairfax High School, is one such parent.
“I wish they would have addressed this sooner,” she said, adding that her daughter will graduate from Fairfax High School this June, but her son will be shifted during his junior year to Woodson High School — the 2014-15 school year — under all three of the options.
“High school is hard enough,” Quinnette said, adding that had she been given the option, she would have enrolled her son in Woodson for all four years rather than splitting two years at Fairfax High with two years at Woodson. Quinnette’s son, Ray, is a varsity swimmer and also is on the school’s football and lacrosse teams.
“On Monday, he’ll letter in swimming. And he’ll have to wear that Fairfax letter to Woodson,” she said.
Many parents are hoping for generous grandfathering of students under any approved plan to mitigate crowding at Fairfax High School.
Fairfax High School parent Kim Thompson said her son, a junior, would stay at Fairfax under any plan, while her daughter, a freshman, would be moved her junior year to Woodson High School.
“My primary goal with this boundary study is to allow all students who start their high school career at a particular high school to finish and graduate from that same high school,” she said. “While I believe that [my daughter] would receive an excellent education at Woodson, I think that the social and emotional impact of switching high schools after two years would be distracting and counterproductive. She told me that it would feel like starting over in seventh grade — having to make all new friends in an all new building.”
School officials are hoping to implement a boundary shift by Fall 2014 in hopes of reducing crowding at both Fairfax High School and Lanier Middle School. These two schools are owned by the city but run by the county and include students who live outside of city limits. The three options proposed by school officials would only remove some county students. No city students would be reassigned.
Fairfax High School is projected to be 600 students more than its capacity by 2017, according to school officials. Of the students attending the school, 65 percent are county residents and 35 percent live in the city.
Three community outreach events were conducted earlier this winter.
“I attended the info session at Woodson [Tuesday] night ... At this point, I am very dissatisfied with all three options on the table,” said parent Greg Altieri. “I have no doubt that my son will receive a high quality education regardless of which school he attends, but that is not the point. For me it is a matter of principle.”
Altieri said the proposed options split elementary school feeders, meaning students from the same elementary school would go to different high schools. Neighborhoods and families that have supported the Fairfax High Rebels and the Lanier Middle School Eagles for decades would be reassigned, he said.
The three options — Option A, B and C — offer progressively increasing effects on student populations currently assigned to Fairfax High and Lanier Middle attendance areas.
Option A would reassign 224 students in 2014-15 and 290 in 2017-18. Option B would remove 367 students in 2014-15 and 485 in 2017-18. Option C is projected to remove 456 students in 2014-15 and 712 from the schools in 2017-18.
The boundary study includes 11 middle and high schools, which could be affected by the population shifts by either losing or gaining students.
When approving the scope of the boundary study in January, School Board members said the hope would be to relieve crowding at Fairfax High and Lanier Middle by fall 2014 but also address long-term crowding issues to prevent future need for reassigning more children.
“Bottom line: Current Options A, B and C are insufficient and do not represent the true trade space that is available to solve the overcrowding issues at Lanier [and] Fairfax,” said parent Ginger Cahoon, who lives in the Fairfax Villa neighborhood, just outside of city limits. She requests additional options that would remove split-feeders, allow students to attend the schools closest to their homes, and allow current students to stay put. Several parents also suggested traffic impact studies to look at the added time students could spend on buses if reassigned to other schools.
A formal public hearing before the School Board on this topic is scheduled for April 17. A School Board vote is scheduled for May 9.