Glenkirk Elementary Parents Want Kids to Stay at Glenkirk

| November 26, 2014 | 0 Comments | Education
Parents speak during a meeting at Piney Branch to discuss redistricting upon opening of the new "Devlin Road" school.

Parents speak during a meeting at Piney Branch to discuss redistricting upon opening of the new “Devlin Road” school.

Parents expressed their concerns about the redistricting of some Glenkirk Elementary School communities to Piney Branch Elementary upon the opening of the not yet named “Devlin Road” elementary school in September of 2015. They spoke up at Prince William County Schools’ community meeting held Nov. 24 at Piney Branch Elementary.

At the meeting, parents learned that 13 schools would be affected by boundary changes that would create a ripple effect across western Prince William County. Schools affected include “Devlin Road,” Glenkirk, Piney Branch, Victory, Mullen, Ellis, West Gate, Sinclair, Sudley, Yorkshire, Signal Hill, Cedar Point and Independence Hill.

However, most concerns centered around moving Glenkirk communities into Piney Branch.

Glenkirk parents made up a large segment of attendees. They were well informed of just how the proposed changes would affect their neighborhoods. Most knew that according to the Preliminary Boundary Plan, Glenkirk Elementary School would lose the neighborhoods of Saranac, Broad Run Oaks, Rocky Run and Brookside to Piney Branch Elementary School. They also knew that according to Plans 2 and 3, the southern part of Glenkirk Estates would be redistricted to Piney Branch.

Although Piney Branch is not far from their communities, parents argued that the Glenkirk Elementary community should stay together, especially Glenkirk Estates. They explained that Glenkirk Elementary is located in their immediate neighborhood, and they identify with it as their community school.

Parents said they understood that Glenkirk Elementary is the most overcrowded elementary school in the western Prince William at 122.2 percent capacity, and that it requires four learning trailers to house students. However, given the choice, parents still said they would rather their children learn in trailers than to have them moved into Piney Branch Elementary.

Preliminary Plan for Glenkirk would remove several communities, including Saranac. Map via PWCS Facility Services.

Preliminary Plan for Glenkirk would remove several communities, including Saranac. Map via PWCS Facility Services.

One main argument community members used is that their neighborhood is firmly established whereas Piney Branch’s new attendance area will be more fluid.

Dr. Matthew Cartlidge, Supervisor of Planning, said that is not exactly true. The Glenkirk community is slated to build 18 more homes. And, according to projections, the school is expected to see 127 more students in the next three years. Cartlidge describes this addition as considerable, given the school current population numbers.

While Cartlidge and Dave Beavers, Supervisor of Planning and Financial Services said they were there to listen and take note of residents’ concerns, they also defended themselves and the citizen’s boundary committee, explaining why they created the boundaries as they did.

Although, PWCS looks to please community members, staff explained they have other pressing considerations as well. Facility Services staff said redistricting Glenkirk is compatible with the school divisions goal to reduce overcrowding at schools and provide students with permanent seats within a brick and mortar building.

Other criteria is to balance populations and demographics, make for efficient travel, not to continue to redistrict neighborhoods, keep small neighborhoods together and help schools feed from one school to another.

However, Glenkirk parents continued to question as to whether Piney Branch is the better location in which to allow for future growth, considering all of the new developments planned to come into that area.

Parents repeatedly mentioned the large community of Stone Haven slated for the Piney Branch area. Although Stone Haven has not yet been approved by the Board of County Supervisors, many residents are predicting that it is just a matter of time before it gains board approval.

If and when Stone Have homes are built, residents believe they would dramatically increase populations at Piney Branch. That is in addition to active developments in the Piney Branch attendance area such as Wentworth Green.

“I don’t think you calculated the correct projection including Stone Haven at Piney Branch,” one woman from Glenkirk Estates told members of the Facilities Services.

Beavers explained that while uncertain variables affect planning, PWCS has taken Stone Haven and other new developments into account. Additionally, he said it will take five or more years for people to occupy homes in Stone Haven, should it be approved.

Plans 2 & 3 would split Glenkirk Estates, sending the southern part of the community to Piney Branch.

Plans 2 & 3 would split Glenkirk Estates, sending the southern part of the community to Piney Branch.

Glenkirk parents were not swayed and continued to advocate for their communities to remain at Glenkirk.

“At this point, is there not a reason that both communities could not stay in the school,” one Glenkirk mother said.

Glenkirk community members also suggested that PWCS build an addition instead of redistricting the elementary school, but PWCS staff said that the option is not usually possible. Although additions provide more classroom space, a school would still need the extra cafeteria space, bus loop space and other common areas to meet the needs of a larger population. It also requires enough land to make the construction possible.

Along with parents from Glenkirk Estates, parents from the communities of Saranac, located on the western side of Glenkirk Road were also adamant that their community should stay at Glenkirk. Many of them wore the color gold and sat together to show their solidarity.

When staff took a poll via show of hands, a large segment of Glenkirk parents said they would want all of Glenkirk Estates to stay at Glenkirk. Saranac parents and supporters also voted for them to stay within the boundaries. Together, these parents made up approximately half of the attendees at the meeting.

Cartlidge said they would take residents’ concerns into account, and that parents could also contact their school board members as they would be the final decision makers as to which plan receives approval. Brentsville School Board member Gil Trenum attended the meeting and listened to the concerns of community members.

Readers can learn more about the Devlin Road school boundaries, timeline and demographics at Devlin Road Elementary School Boundary Planning Webpage via Facilities Services.

PWCS will hold a second community meeting at Loch Lomond Elementary School on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. in the school’s cafeteria.

The School Board will receive information on the boundaries proposals for the Devlin Road school as an info item on Jan. 7. They will vote on the boundaries via a public hearing on Jan. 21.

Citizens are invited to sign up to speak before the School Board during citizens’ time. School Board meetings begin at 7 p.m. at the Kelly Leadership Center on Bristow Road in Manassas. Speakers must sign up before 6:50 p.m.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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