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New McLean elementary school boundaries recommended to alleviate Kent Gardens crowding

Fairfax County Public Schools recommends adjusting boundaries for McLean elementary schools to relieve crowding at Kent Gardens (via FCPS)

A proposal to ease overcrowding at Kent Gardens Elementary School will require adjustments at four other elementary schools in McLean, but local middle and high schools have been spared.

The Fairfax County School Board will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. this Thursday (Nov. 30) to get community feedback on the recommended boundary changes, which will affect an estimated 380 students, according to Fairfax County Public Schools.

A presentation on the proposal was expected on Nov. 20, but the school board’s meeting that day got canceled. Elaine Tholen, who represents the Dranesville District on the board, confirmed that the public hearing and a final vote on Dec. 4 will proceed as scheduled.

As of October, there were 1,006 students enrolled in Kent Gardens (1717 Melbourne Drive) — a decline from the 1,023 students enrolled during the 2022-2023 school year, according to FCPS. However, the school remains well above capacity in terms of both its design (896 students) and its programming (848 students).

After years of complaints about overstuffed schools from the McLean community, the school board designated a boundary adjustment for Kent Gardens as a priority in the fiscal year 2024-2028 capital improvement plan adopted earlier this year.

Chosen out of five options presented to the community in September, the change recommended by FCPS staff would reassign 190 students from Kent Gardens to Franklin Sherman Elementary School, which is currently utilizing just 77% of its program capacity. Another 38 students would move to Haycock Elementary.

The proposal would also shift 112 Franklin Sherman students to Chesterbrook Elementary School and 40 students to Churchill Road Elementary.

Estimated capacity changes under the recommended McLean elementary school boundary adjustment (via FCPS)

On its webpage for the boundary adjustment, FCPS says this scenario “balances student population and capacity of schools in the area,” while considering potential development in McLean that could have a future impact on local elementary schools.

According to FCPS, other benefits of this scenario include:

  • Maintains walking areas within proximity to schools.
  • Eliminates a split feeder at Franklin Sherman ES so students matriculate to middle school together.
  • Was identified by the Transportation department as one of the easier scenarios for them to implement; however, buses may still have to be added.
  • Maintains the popular French Immersion Program and Local Full-time Advanced Academic Program at Kent Gardens.

Students who aren’t assigned to Kent Gardens could still have access to its French immersion program through a lottery.

If the adjustments are approved, FCPS staff recommend immediately reassigning rising kindergarten and first-grade students for the 2024-25 school year, and giving other students the option to attend their new school or stay at their current one.

“The recommended phasing plan allows students/caregivers the option to remain at their current school or change schools now, addressing the different perspectives voiced in public feedback,” FCPS says. “It also considers the needs of older elementary school students who were in school during COVID, and another change may be stressful.”

FCPS projects that the new boundaries would bring Kent Gardens down to 788 students, or 93% capacity, in the 2027-2028 school year, though the projected enrollment changes don’t reflect the phasing plan.

While this adjustment won’t affect middle or high school boundaries, changes approved in 2021 for McLean High School shifted about 190 high school students and 78 middle school students to the Langley High School pyramid. Those adjustments are still being phased in through the 2024-2025 school year.

As McLean and the general Tysons area continue to develop, crowding in schools remains a concern. The McLean Citizens Association released a report last year questioning how FCPS estimates future enrollment.

The school board’s scheduled work session tomorrow (Tuesday) will include discussion of a plan for public engagement on capital projects, though FCPS currently doesn’t have any McLean schools in its renovation queue.

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