[Sun Gazette editorials represent the viewpoint of Sun Gazette Newspapers, which provides content to, but is otherwise unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]
Look up the word “messy” in the dictionary and you likely will find a photo of an Arlington School Board meeting during one of the myriad school-redistricting battles that have played out in recent years, as the school system has grappled with the implications of growth.
Our sympathy, to a degree, is with school-system leaders – in this community, there is no way to shift students around without arousing passions (some legitimate, some excessive to the extreme), mostly coming from parents who too often refuse to see the forest for the trees while expecting their whims to be catered to.
When it comes to the latest round of redistricting, we admit to being a tad confounded about the staff proposals. Sprung on the community a few months ago, the original plans delineated several options, all of which involved transferring entire elementary-school populations among buildings. It seemed, we said at the time, an idea designed, if unintentionally, at alienating the most people possible.
Staff has now killed off a proposal (benignly dubbed “Option 2”) that had raised the most hackles among the public. We wonder if this hasn’t been a case of kabuki theater: Suggesting an option crafted to be so poorly received by the public that, in rescinding it, school officials can say they’re being responsive – then ram through the plan they have wanted from the start. (That’s how they got the Washington-Lee High School name change enacted, after all.)
But the option still on the table is picking up its share of incoming flak, too. Like the opposing European empires in August 1914, various constituencies are mobilizing and weaponizing in preparation for battle.
But one thing remains certain: Arlington’s public schools continue to see an ever-growing student body, and they have to go somewhere. Those parents who don’t like the way redistricting has been handled in recent times always have the option of running for School Board. There are a couple of vacancies on the near horizon, after all.