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McLean School Overcrowding Overshadows Countywide Redistricting Debate

After killing the boundary change proposal to relieve McLean High School, the Fairfax County School Board is currently beginning discussions on a broader redistricting effort. But as it does, it’s having trouble escaping the shadow of McLean’s overcrowding.

“I’ve received a number of letters about the McLean area saying that they had a meeting and that staff members were there and there were decisions made,” Karen Keys-Gamarra, an at-large member of the School Board, said in work session on Monday. “In the letters I’ve received, they are expecting to get this boundary change, it’s just a matter of time, so they want to know why the Board is dragging its feet. I think we need a statement in a more official capacity.”

Overcrowding at McLean High School has been a contentious topic made worse by nearby Langley High School’s under-capacity status following extensive renovations.

Dranesville District Representative Jane Strauss had put forward a plan to shift some students in McLean High School’s feeders — elementary and middle schools whose students are planned to attend McLean High School — to Langley. But the plan faced pushback from other members, who said McLean High School needed to wait for the broader redistricting to take effect.

As the School Board is putting together its priorities, Fairfax County Superintendent Scott Brabrand said he will work on putting together more information for the McLean community.

“My own view is I want to work with the Board and get goals and prioritization clear before making boundary decisions,” said Brabrand. “I get that there’s tension, but I think we need to build this transparency… [this process] is based on prioritized factors or goals. When that’s done, then we can begin going through the boundary decisions to include that pyramid.”

School staff said the ongoing challenge is that any school-level changes that get made to address immediate overcrowding could conflict with the countywide plans being developed. Staff noted that a new modular facility will be installed at McLean High School, but that it will not eliminate overcrowding at the school.

But Brabrand assured McLean parents that the update would likely come within the month.

“In March, we will put together goals and hope to have a framework in place before the school year ends,” said Brabrand. “It could impact the 2021 school year.”

Photo via McLean High School PTSA

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