Tysons, VA

Meetings to solicit community input on a proposed boundary change for two high schools in McLean seemed to raise more questions than they answered.

Roughly 200 parents, stakeholders and politicians, including Providence District Supervisor-elect Dalia Palchik and several incoming Fairfax County School Board members, attended the meetings at Langley High School on Monday (Dec. 2) and McLean High School last night (Wednesday).

McLean High School, which was designed for a capacity of 1,993 students, currently has 2,350 students. Meanwhile, newly renovated Langley High School has 1,972 students and could have up to 2,370, according to the presentation from FCPS staff.

The proposed boundary change would move some students from McLean High School (1633 Davidson Road) to Langley High School (6520 Georgetown Pike) to address the overcrowding issue.

There are 18 trailers at McLean High School right now, Jane Strauss, the Dranesville District representative on the school board, said at the Monday night meeting.

“It would be unfair to not consider a boundary change,” Strauss said, adding that Fairfax County does not want to move juniors and seniors from the schools. “You want to keep large cohorts of kids together.”

At the meetings, staff from Fairfax County Public Schools gave a brief overview of the process for considering the boundary change before giving attendees time to discuss in small groups which of the three options they preferred.

One option would move students in the areas of the Colvin Run and Spring Hill elementary schools, while the other two would move students from just one of those sections from McLean to Langley — either

Attendees circled up in small groups and reviewed facts of the scenario such as maps and potential solutions before being asked to write theoretical questions and comments on large pieces of paper. The comments were later posted on the cafeteria wall and will be available online in the next few days.

A bulk of the attendees at both meetings indicated a preference for Option A, which would move the students from all of the geographic areas. People in favor of Option A said that it would provide the most relief to the overcrowded school.

People who favored the other options said moving students from a smaller area would mean fewer families would have to deal with issues of switching schools.

Many attendees said that there has been a lack of information about the boundary change. Some of the recurring questions included:

  • “How much relief does [Option A] give McLean HS?”
  • “How many students (quantity) feed in from each scenario A, B, or C?”
  • “Will current McLean students be grandfathered in?”
  • “When will McLean High School be renovated?”

“We need to know the numbers of projected kids that would move in each scenario in order to make informed decisions,” one person wrote. “Also to make sure Langley doesn’t get crowded.”

Another wrote: “Consider this to be a band-aid approach. Doesn’t seem to consider long-term issues of growth in all districts.”

Mary Reilly, a parent of four kids with two at Langley High School, said that she is concerned that the two McLean high schools won’t be able to support new development in the future.

Other parents echoed that sentiment, especially for the growing Tysons area.

Several attendees said they want county officials to consider the impact the boundary change would have on elementary and middle school students, along with grandfathering students currently at the two high schools so that they wouldn’t be impacted by a change next year.

Other ideas that came up at the meetings included giving students a choice of the two schools, having students from Franklin Sherman Elementary School go to Langley High School, adding an “urban high school” in Tysons and building an addition at McLean High School.

Parents at both meetings shared concerns about their kids being separated from their friends and teachers.

Brendan Murphy said that his teenager has already made friends and joined sports teams. “I don’t want them to switch the kids mid-steam [in high school],” he said.

Boundary scope meetings are expected to continue into the spring, followed by a public hearing on the proposal and then a vote — the dates haven’t been determined yet — so that the change can impact the 2020-2021 school year, according to the presentations FCPS staff gave.

Anyone who wants a chance to share their perspective can submit comments online.

Catherine Douglas Moran and Ashley Hopko wrote this story. 

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