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A decision on plans to reduce crowding at Fairfax High School by reassigning hundreds of students is a week away. School Board members met Monday for a final work session on the Fairfax High School and Lanier Middle School boundary shift. The vote is scheduled next Thursday, May 9.

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.

To allow for grandfathering of some students currently attending schools, staff is recommending reassigning 261 students (208 from Fairfax High) from these schools in 2014-15, and 468 students (371 from Fairfax High) in 2017-18. Fairfax High School is in Fairfax City. No Fairfax City students are being moved, but rather the county population is being shifted to county schools. City schools are run by Fairfax County Public Schools.

School Board discussions on Monday focused on eliminating split feeder schools, meaning elementary or middle schools where students would be divided between two or more high schools’ attendance areas. Board members also talked about additional grandfathering, so that students who start in a school can finish there. Student commutes to schools was also discussed.

“Pieces are moving all over, but at the end of the day, if we do not relieve overcrowding significantly, I will have viewed us as failing our job,” said School Board member Patty Reed (Providence District). “I don’t know about everyone else but I don’t want to come back to this issue.”

Although amendments were offered Monday by School Board members and are planned to be debated during the vote, the primary options are:

--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.

--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.

“I’m looking to keep people closer to their community schools than what we have here,” School Board member Megan McLaughlin (Braddock District) said. She indicated she would support temporary split feeder options if it meant shorter commutes for students long term.

“When we’re done [with this boundary shift], a lot of our schools in this boundary study are going to be close to about 108 percent capacity,” she said. “In fact, not only that, if you look at the map, staff says the capacity at all of the high schools in this grouping are going to be at 107 percent.”

McLaughlin and other School Board members said they would support adding a small number of students to crowded schools if it meant shorter travel times.

“The question is where is the right place for those kids to go if we’re pulling them out of Fairfax?” she said.

Fellow School Board member Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield District) voiced similar concerns about distance from schools and the possibility of adding students to Centreville High School, which was removed from the scope of the boundary study because it is projected to be at 121 percent capacity by 2017-18.

“If you look at that distance traveled, I think that it’s about a 45 minute commute or bus ride [for some students under the proposed options],” she said. “And part of the concern is if you miss the bus, it is a major, major investment on parents to get the students into Fairfax, particularly if they are younger children who are elementary bound.”

While there is support for alternatives to the proposed options, some School Board members were against adding options this late in the debate.

“I would support amendments that increase the relief for Fairfax High School, but no amendments that would decrease relief,” School Board member Ted Velkoff (At-large) said. “I also would not support the creation of new split feeders… I will not support any options that are made of components that have not been shown in options A, B and C. For me this is a transparency issue. This information has been talked about for at least six months… and I think to construct combinations of communities to be moved that haven’t been part of this since these charts showed in January is not in keeping with our responsibility to the community.”

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

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com