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After reviewing Thursday the latest changes to boundary proposals impacting 16 schools in eastern and central Prince William County, school board members plan to vote on proposed elementary school attendance zones at a Jan. 16 meeting

The board wrestled with the possibility that the new Prince William Parkway school will be overcrowded when it opens, and addressed other issues during the work session attended by 40 parents and community members.

It was another step in a months-long planning process that started in fall 2018 with school division staff and a committee of volunteers developing proposals for new boundaries  in the 2019-2020 school year.

Parents and community members have expressed concerns with the changes that will impact 10,000 students, including the splitting neighborhoods and increasing driving distance for parents along busy Old Bridge Road.

Attendees were greeted with new proposals  from At-large Chairman Babur Lateef and school board members Lillie Jessie, Occoquan District; Loree Williams, Woodbridge District; and Diane Raulston, Neabsco District.

Currently 14 of the 16 elementary schools affected are over 100 percent capacity and without any boundary changes, six schools are projected to exceed 125 percent capacity in 2023, said Superintendent Steven Walts.

Proper boundary drawing can relieve overcrowding next school year, Walts said.

Some proposals would eliminate some or all of the 61 trailers utilized as classroom space in the 16 elementary schools.

Cathy Balfanz, who has a child attending Penn Elementary, said after the work session she appreciates Raulston and Jessie for meeting with her and other parents to continue developing the plans.

“I’m impressed how our representatives listened to our concerns and tried to make as many people happy as possible,” she said. “They can’t make everyone happy; I don’t envy their jobs. They’re probably trying to fix too many problems at once.”

The school board will consider approving the boundary changes at its Jan. 16 meeting. School board members will soon begin discussing the budget for fiscal year 2019-2020 and already began discussions on Wednesday, Jan. 9 about the school division’s 10-year capital improvements plan that will need to be approved with the budget.

(2) comments

Freddy Rodriguez

For many of us parents this has been an ordeal fraught with heartache and deception. Many of us were introduced to the preliminary rezoning plan during the public meeting held on November 19th. Yes, PWCS decided that Thanksgiving week, when many families had plans to leave town, was the perfect time to unveil their rezoning plan. The plan basically shifted the entire Occoquan District (Elementary Schools) and three schools from the Woodbridge District west regardless of consequences. In many cases, students who currently live so close to their schools that they were walkers are to get in a school bus so they can be shifted west on Old Bridge Rd passing up to 2 schools before getting to their new school. Rockledge Elementary was scheduled to have a 70% population change.

During the public meetings we were told that a Community Committee was formed, and they would be able to make changes to the proposal. However, as time went on, we started hearing from our committee members that they were being held on a very tight leash and only allowed to make edits to the preliminary plan, and not actual changes.

Once again, the first School Board hearing on this issue was on January 2nd when many families were still out of town. By this point it became clear that the representatives of the District affected were against the current plans and the other district members were for it. For a proposal to be approve it needs to have at least 5 out of 8 votes. Basically, other people’s elected officials would have the final say on our kids’ future. Since the majority refused to postpone the final vote of January 16, they settled on a Workshop.

On January 10th the “workless” Workshop took place. Very quickly it became evident that most, if not all, of the Board Members lack the required understanding of the rezoning process to actually be able to work on a proposal. They need the assistance of the planning staff. The Workshop devolved into a posturing session between the pro and con school board members. The most alarming thing that came out of the “workless” Workshop was that the number of portable classrooms eliminated in the process was being used as the true success benchmark for the rezone proposal. It appears that the PWC Boards of Supervisors is expecting a large number of portable classrooms eliminated and if not, they will withhold or lessen the amount of funding given to the School Board. And this was the real reason why the current proposals are so abusive.

Basically, “money talks and our kids walk”

Freddy Rodriguez

About 24 hours before the final vote, a new rezoning plan was publicly posted which will be consider during today’s vote. I am hearing that this new plan was put together by representative of other districts, not Occoquan District. Basically, come election day, the affected residents will not be able to vote against the people who are making fundamental decisions for our children. My impression is that some of these School Board Members are wannabe politicians who are using the School Board as a stepping ladder to fill their political aspirations. So now they are currying favors for the Board of Supervisor and others by eliminating as many trailers as possible regardless of the hardship that it will have on our children.

"Money talks and our kids walk"

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