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Fairfax County school board considers moving gifted students

Local,Virginia,Education,Rachel Baye,Fairfax County

Fairfax County school officials are expected to decide this week whether to move some of the students enrolled in the county's most academically advanced program for elementary and middle school students into less crowded schools.

The plan has prompted parents to pack school board meetings, with some praising a move to alleviate overpopulated schools and others worried about uprooting students.

Four elementary schools that house Advanced Academic Program Level IV centers are overcrowded: Haycock in Falls Church, Louise Archer in Vienna, Lorton Station in Lorton and Hunters Woods in Reston. Haycock and Hunters Woods each has nearly 200 students more than their buildings were intended to hold, enrollment data show.

To alleviate some of the problem, the county school board is considering relocating some of the students starting in the program to new centers at Lemon Road, Westbriar, Silverbrook and Navy elementary schools.

For example, rising third-grade students at Lemon Road, Shrevewood and Westgate elementary schools who qualify for the program this year went to Haycock. If the proposal passes, they instead would go to Lemon Road next year and continue there through sixth grade. Staying at Haycock would be advanced students who now go to Chesterbrook, Franklin Sherman, Haycock and Timber Lane elementary schools.

School board members Janie Strauss and Pat Hynes also have proposed new centers at Cooper, Herndon and Thoreau middle schools to alleviate overcrowding at Kilmer, Longfellow, Hughes and Luther Jackson middle schools.

The move makes sense, said Stephanie Bollini, who has three children at Louise Archer, including a third-grader in the program.

The change would send advanced third-graders at Freedom Hill, Stenwood and Westbriar elementary schools to a new center at Westbriar, reducing the enrollment at Louise Archer by an estimated 50 students in the first year and 200 students in the 2016-2017 school year. Since Louise Archer is the neighborhood school for

Bollini's children, the change would not require them to relocate.

"Our music department is in trailers," Bollini said. "We have to lose at least 120 kids in order for us to gain back the art room, the reading resource room and the music room."

But as proposed, the changes don't go far enough, Strauss said. She has proposed that in addition to the third-graders, rising fourth- and fifth-grade students at Haycock Elementary, whose neighborhood schools are Lemon Road, Shrevewood or Westgate, relocate to the new center at Lemon Road. That would take an estimated 147 students out of Haycock immediately.

Even with those changes, the school will still be overcrowded, Strauss said, but it's a start.

"They can't really go on with the number of children in the building."

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