I’d like to suggest a third plan – None of the Above.
Versions 1.1 and 2.1(a) are virtually identical, with two exceptions, 2.1 (a) moves communities in the Great Oaks area to OP from Brentsville and moves homes in the Victory Lakes community to Brentsville from Stonewall.
Both are bad plans.
What makes them such bad plans that “None of the Above” is a better alternative? Demographics, transfers, and enrollment projections.
Policy 264 governs the boundary change process. It states, in part, that, “Many factors may be considered when establishing school boundaries including, but not limited to, projected enrollments, school capacities, transportation distances, future school construction plans, and the demographic balance of school populations. “
Under both plans 1.1 and 2.1.(a), the 12th high school’s population will be largely derived from students attending Hylton and OP. Geographically, the 12th high school is closest to Hylton and Forest Park high schools.
The financial stability of a child’s family is one of the primary indicators of academic performance. Children from economically disadvantaged families of all races, sexes, and language proficiencies tend to pass tests at a lower rate and with lower scores than children from financially stable families.
- Currently about 28% of Hylton’s students are economically disadvantaged. After the change about 30% will be economically disadvantaged – an increase of 2%.
- Currently about 21% of OP’s students are economically disadvantaged. After the change about 25% will be economically disadvantaged – an increase of 4%.
- About 23% of Forest Park’s students will be economically disadvantaged after the boundary change.
- Only 9% of the 12th high schools students will be economically disadvantaged – 21% less than Hylton, 14% less than OP, and 12% less than Forest Park.
To find a similar percentage of economically disadvantaged children, you have to go to Battlefield High School, more than 20 miles away. Even Brentsville and Patriot high schools will have a greater percentage of economically disadvantaged children than will the 12th high school.
English proficiency is another indicator of likely academic performance. Learning a new language isn’t easy, and children who enter school with limited English proficiency (LEP) tend to pass tests at a lower rate and with lower scores than children who are English proficient.
- Currently about 7% of Hylton and OP’s students are considered LEP. After the change about 8% will be considered LEP – an increase of 1%.
- About 4% of Forest Park’s students will be considered LEP after the boundary change.
- Only 2% of the 12th high schools students will be economically disadvantaged – 6% less than Hylton and OP and about 2% less than Forest Park.
How is it possible to create a high school with these demographics, without “creative boundaries”? Look at the maps for the boundary of the 12th high school, and note the “islands”. Why would you bus two communities through 12th high school neighborhoods to take them to OP, which is further from them than 3 and possibly 4, other high schools, if not to support these “creative boundaries”?
High schools in PWCS offer more advanced classes through various programs for students who are interested in them. The program courses PWCS offers are Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and Cambridge. Each high school offers either AP, IB, or Cambridge program courses, as listed below.
PWCS offers courses in Building Trades, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, and Nursing. Students participating in these programs remain at their base schools and are bused to the school in their area that offers the program courses based on their schedule. These students are considered transport students as they remain at their base schools and are only transported to another school for their program courses.
In addition to all of that, PWCS offers a number of speciality programs, which are elective courses students take in each of their 4 years of high schools, and allows students to transfer from their base school to another school to attend a speciality program. This is a full time transfer, meaning that students who transfer for a specialty program will not attend any courses at their base school. Busing is provided to students who transfer via the express bus service.
Specialty programs that require transfers are as follows:
- Battlefield (AP) – IT
- Brentsville (Cambridge) – Agriculture
- Forest Park (AP) – IT
- Freedom (AP) – Center for Environmental and Natural Sciences
- Gar-Field (IB) – none
- Hylton (AP) – Automotive Technology, TV Production, Center for International Studies and Languages
- OP (AP) – Biotechnology
- Patriot (AP) – Project Lead the Way
- Potomac (Cambridge) – Welding
- Stonewall (IB) – none
- Woodbridge (AP) – Project Lead the Way, Center for Fine and Performing Arts
A number of students take advantage of this and transfer from their base school to a different school every year. These transfers make planning difficult as students whose neighborhood is moved to another school can just transfer back to their old schools. It also creates overcrowding at some schools where none would exist without transfers.
- Hylton is currently 341 students overcapacity, with 440 transfers in
- OP is currently 333 students overcapacity, with 309 transfers in
- Forest Park is currently 296 students overcapacity, with 415 transfers in
- Woodbridge is currently 114 students overcapacity with 232 transfers in
- Battlefield is currently 408 students overcapacity with 98 transfers in
On the flip side you have the schools that are under capacity because of transfers out:
- Brentsville is currently 188 students under capacity, with 142 transfers out
- Freedom is currently 133 students under capacity, with 400 transfers out
- Gar-Field is currently 385 students under capacity, with 256 transfers out
- Potomac is currently 733 students under capacity, with 756 transfers out
- Stonewall is currently 91 students under capacity, with 301 transfers out
Only one school is an outlier – Patriot high school. Patriot high school is currently 561 students overcapacity, with 152 transfers out.
No boundary change plan will have any bearing on actual enrollment unless PWCS addresses transfers.
UPDATE: Because someone asked for it, here is the file from which the transfer numbers listed above were calculated. It’s an official PWCS publication.
Hylton and OP are overcrowded because of transfers. Battlefield and Patriot are more overcrowded than Hylton and OP, and they’re overcrowded due students living in their boundary. The overcrowding at Battlefield and Patriot isn’t a surprise to anyone; it was known before Patriot opened that they would be this overcrowded based on PWCS’s plans. In fact, the economic downturn has slowed growth to such an extent that Battlefield and Patriot aren’t as overcrowded as they were expected to be at this point.
The 12th high school will provide no relief to Battlefield and limited relief to Patriot. Relief for overcrowding at Battlefield and Patriot will have to wait until 2019 when the 13th high school opens, assuming it open in 2019. To give it some perspective, by then today’s 7th graders will have graduated from high school.
This was all expected by PWCS and well documented for anyone who cared to pay attention.
In the 2018 – 2019 school year, the year before the 13th high school opens, Battlefield high school will be 812 students above capacity (140%), Patriot high school be 708 students above capacity (134%), and Stonewall high school will be 96 or 320 students above capacity (4% or 13%), depending on which plan is approved.
In contrast, the 12th high school will be 117 students below capacity (94%), Forest Park will be 124 students below capacity (94%) and OP will be either 91 or 362 students below capacity (96% or 85%), depending on which plan is approved. If there administration’s recommendation is approved, the 12th high school’s enrollment will never rise above 94%, Forest Park’s enrollment will drop to 94% and OP’s enrollment will drop to 85%. Meanwhile, Battlefield and Patriot will be at 140% and 134%, respectively.
Neither plan relieves overcrowding at Battlefield and Patriot.
The 12th high school was built in the wrong location. It is being built to relieve overcrowding at Hylton, OP, and Forest Park – overcrowding that is the result of the schools accepting more transfers in that they have space to accommodate.
How can PWCS recommend a plan that has that much disparity in enrollment? How can PWCS do nothing to address overcrowding at Battlefield and Patriot – overcrowding that they knew about more than 5 years ago when they developed the plan for Patriot?
None of the Above
These plans that PWCS has developed should have been dead on arrival. Forget the embarrassment of publishing their recommendation that was supposedly based on community input, before the community input meetings were held. Forget the minor tweaks and twists that have been made thus far. Forget all that.
These plans stink.
All of the plans exacerbate demographic imbalance between schools. They leave some schools severely overcrowded and with other schools severely under capacity. They pick and choose select communities and bus them past other schools to go to schools with more desirable demographics.
There is no best bad plan – there are just bad plans.
The boundaries for the high school don’t affect construction one iota. The 12th high school won’t open for 2 more school years. PWCS has the time to go back to the drawing board and develop a better plan – one which reduces overcrowding at Battlefield and Patriot and better balances the demographics between schools. If PWCS wants clean feeder patterns, then they need to change the boundaries for every elementary, middle, and high school in the county. Providing clean feeder patterns for one school and only one school is unacceptable, especially as it’s not a stated objective in the policy governing boundary changes.
I encourage our school board members to reject all of the plans proposed by PWCS and send them back to the drawing board so that there’s a plan we can all live with and feel good about.