Wakefield Chapel, Bren Mar Park redistricted
Written by CJ Aftergut, Co-Editor in Chief, The A-Blast
Of all the words used to describe AHS, “overcrowded” and “diverse” have been perhaps the most common in recent years. Both have become staples of the school and its student body, although both are expected to change as a result of a boundary decision made by the FCPS Board on July 28.
The motion, approved by a 10-2 vote, will relocate students from the eastern portion of the Wakefield Forest ES and Bren Mar Park ES attendance areas from AHS to Woodson HS and Edison HS, respectively. This change will first take place in the 2012-2013 school year, re-assigning approximately 121 incoming ninth graders out of AHS.
Made looking ahead to the future, the decision is also anticipated to re-assign approximately 441 students in the 2016-2017 school year. Impacts of the boundary change, however, are expected to be seen long before those students enter high school.
“According to the statistics I’ve heard, I feel that the populations of after school activities such as A-Blast, marching band, sports like lacrosse, etc. will go down, along with the number of IB diploma candidates,” senior and Wakefield Chapel resident Danielle Turner said. “Of course, every time we lose a neighborhood, we lose a small part of AHS’s diverse culture, so we’re losing part of that.”
As two middle class neighborhoods, Wakefield Chapel and Bren Mar Park are generally acknowledged as a significant source of funding for extracurricular activities at AHS. Therefore, some are worried that the boundary shift will push AHS beyond its tipping point.
“Since they’re high income areas, the proportion of free and reduced lunch students will probably increase, and I suspect that the boosters and funds of certain clubs will decrease,” Turner said.
It was this factor that worried a number of school board members, including Tina Hone and Sandy Evans, both of whom strongly supported an amendment to keep the eastern portion of the Wakefield Forest ES attendance area at AHS.
In defense of her position, Hone described AHS as “incredibly successful despite the odds,” saying that “we have to preserve AHS, we have to be ready for the challenges ahead.”
Evans also cited the school’s success, describing “a whole mix of things,” including avid students, energetic parents, and leadership, that have contributed to AHS’s achievement.
“It doesn’t take that much to put them on the wrong side of the tipping point,” Evans said before the vote.
Hone and Evans were not the only two board members to speak, however, as all but two of the board’s 12 members argued their position. Those in favor of the amendment seemed to echo the arguments of Hone and Evans, describing the effect that shifting AHS’s socioeconomic balance could have on the school and its student body. They also argued that lower class students benefit from the presence of higher income families, who often serve as an inspiration to succeed.
Meanwhile, those in opposition to the amendment repeated the need to relieve the school’s overcrowding in order to drop its enrollment to a point less than capacity. They also cited the success of Hayfield SS following a boundary change that sent middle class neighborhoods from the school to South County SS.
Despite a large amount of discussion by both sides, voting on the amendment resulted in a 6-6 tie, thereby preventing passage of the amendment. The amendment to retain students in the Bren Mar Park “west” attendance area at AHS also failed, in this case by a vote of 4-8.
The approved motion will also move students in the eastern portion of the Wakefield Forest ES and Bren Mar Park ES attendance areas from Poe MS to Frost MS and Holmes MS, respectively. This will create the need for a modular to be built at Frost MS until permanent capacity is added with a planned renovation in 6-7 years. The motion also includes changes at the elementary school level, due mainly to the opening of a new school at the Lacey site.
Although the effects of this boundary change will take several years to be fully understood, it seems evident that AHS will lose not only financial support and extracurricular involvement, but also a piece of its trademark diversity. With change comes uncertainty, and although its effects cannot be predicted, one thing is certain: good or bad, AHS will never be exactly the same again.