Opinion: Letter to the Editor: ‘Commitment to Protecting Our Neighborhood Schools’

I want to address some constituent concerns that have been brought to my attention this week related to FCPS’ School Boundary Policy.

Regrettably, some misinformation continues to circulate within the public, and it is creating unwarranted and harmful stress for FCPS families and homeowners.

As your Braddock District School Board Member, my primary commitments are to promote robust accountability, transparency and community engagement, as well as cultivate greater trust and confidence in FCPS. Therefore, I want to reassure you that the School Board is not planning to redistrict (or begin busing students) countywide.

Equally important, I have a long-standing commitment to protecting our neighborhood schools, promoting stable boundaries, and achieving shorter bus rides for our students. Research shows that neighborhood schools create greater community support and engagement for public education. In addition, our School Board values the trust and confidence that our families, homeowners, and area businesses have for our nationally-recognized school system.

The Board is also committed to fiscal and environmental responsibility. Neighborhood schools help support these goals by reducing roadway congestion, pollution, and fuel costs. In other words, it is educationally and operationally beneficial to keep students in their neighborhood schools.

In terms of addressing equity and opportunity challenges, FCPS and the County have begun an evidenced-based approach of creating “Community Schools” whereby county social services can be co-located within schools where there is higher poverty. This model enables neighborhood students (and families) to have better access to vital services, as well as increase academic achievement. I serve on the Community School’s subcommittee, and have promoted this proven educational model for many years.

With respect to any upcoming boundary changes, FCPS’ current Capital Improvement Program’s document has identified a few specific schools (out of 200) where there is substantial overcrowding that must be addressed. The CIP is very transparent and reflects the School Board’s careful attention and commitment to renovate schools, reduce the use of trailers, and relieve overcrowding.

Like the vast majority of FCPS families and homeowners, we chose to live here because we value FCPS’ long-standing reputation for high-achieving neighborhood schools and stable boundaries. I will continue to promote this important stability and security for all FCPS families.

In closing, here is a link to FCPS’ webpage about the recent boundary policy review process.

https://www.fcps.edu/about-fcps/facilities-planning-future/school-boundary-adjustments/boundary-policy

Please be assured that the Board is committed to good governance and strong community engagement. The Board expressed several concerns related to the DRAFT policy language proposed by FCPS staff at the July 2019 work session. As a result, the Board is not making any changes to the Boundary policy at this time. Instead, we are hiring an outside consultant to review and recommend national best practices, as well as ensure robust public engagement. No changes to the existing boundary policy will occur before this important work is complete, and I will continue to promote neighborhood schools and stable boundaries.

— Megan McLaughlin

Braddock District School Board Member

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