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A public hearing scheduled for next week gives parents a last chance to offer feedback on proposed boundary shifts that would remove hundreds of students from the Fairfax High School-Lanier Middle School attendance area.

The public hearing on the Fairfax-Lanier boundary study is scheduled for Wednesday, April 17.

During a School Board meeting on April 4, school system staff recommended the reassignment of three communities to help alleviate crowding at the two Fairfax City schools.

Fairfax High School is projected to have a capacity deficit of 600 students by the 2017-18 school year if no changes to attendance are made. Similarly, Lanier Middle is projected to be some 115 students over capacity by 2017-18.

“Since there is insufficient capacity at the surrounding schools to fully address the overcrowding at Lanier and Fairfax, the goal was to balance the enrollments at the schools in the study,” said Jeff Platenberg, assistant superintendent for the Department of Facilities and Transportation Services. “No City of Fairfax residents were to be relocated as the result of the boundary [study].”

The scope of the boundary study included the following schools: Chantilly, Fairfax, Falls Church, Oakton and Woodson high schools, Robinson Secondary School and Franklin, Frost, Jackson, Lanier and Rocky Run middle schools.

Platenberg said a goal of the boundary study was to reduce enrollment by at least 300 at Fairfax High and 150 at Lanier Middle.

Proposed changes include:

-Reassigning a portion of the Greenbriar West Elementary School’s attendance area from Lanier Middle/Fairfax High to Rocky Run Middle/Chantilly High, which would eliminate the school’s current split feeder, meaning all of the students would now attend the same middle and high schools.

-Reassigning all of the Fairfax Villa Elementary attendance areas from Lanier/Fairfax to Frost Middle and Woodson High schools starting in the 2013-14 school year.

“This change would provide significant relief to both Lanier and Fairfax High School. [It’s] about 100 students at Fairfax, 150 students at Lanier,” Platenburg said.

Oak View Elementary attendance areas would also be shifted from Frost Middle/Woodson High School to Robinson Secondary School. Staff said this would address a long-standing split feeder issue.

School staff also hoped the recommendation would address parents’ concerns on moving students who had already begun middle or high school. During the 2013-14 school year, there would be no high school reassignments. Ninth-graders who began at one high school could choose to attend their neighborhood’s reassigned school. Some grandfathering was also offered for middle school children.

School Board members are scheduled to discuss the staff-recommended boundary shift during a work session April 29 following the April 17 public hearing. A School Board vote is slated for May 9.

“While I appreciated the community engagement part of this, I am ultimately disappointed in the staff recommendation, particularly because of the amount of time we put into this and specifically because of the Woodson [attendance] island,” School Board member Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield District) said. “There were very creative, workable solutions that were available to us that did not get implemented in the ultimate resolution. I think [Braddock District School Board member Megan] McLaughlin worked very hard to get those included into the main motion… instead of putting us into a position where we had to add amendments, and there are going to be amendments.”

McLaughlin also expressed her disappointment in the recommended boundary changes.

“I kept asking the staff, in the short-term the solution is to go pluck a bunch of students and stick them into Woodson and then shift some kids out of Woodson and put them into Robinson. But that’s not going to address the problem that needs to be addressed with Providence Elementary and the crowding at Oakton [High School],” she said. “I am disappointed because I really do feel that as much as I want to applaud the school system for doing the outreach … nothing changed. It just ended up being what the staff wanted to do from the beginning.”

School Board member Patty Reed (Providence District) said she and fellow board members had received high volumes of emails from parents on the boundary issue.

Although it was difficult to respond to every information request, Reed said, “I just wanted to make sure, on behalf of my all my colleagues, that we have heard them and that we’re trying to understand what’s behind some of these numbers because these are people, these are families, these are communities. And, no we can’t promise anything. And no we can’t please everybody. But we’re certainly going to see what we can do to improve the situation for everybody.”

Reed added, “Really what we’re doing is spreading some of the growth around. The question is how much do we want to do that?”

More on this boundary study can be found at http://www.fcps.edu/fts/planning/fairfaxlanier/index.shtml

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com