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With the goal of reducing crowding, Fairfax County School Board members voted to reassign about 540 students from Fairfax High and 245 students from Lanier Middle schools. Both schools are in Fairfax City but run by Fairfax County Public Schools. Only county students were reassigned.

Student reassignment will begin fall 2014, with options for rising seventh-grade students and rising ninth-grade students to switch assignments beginning a year early, fall 2013. Rising eighth-grade students and rising juniors and seniors are grandfathered, allowing them to remain at their current schools in fall 2014.

The School Board voted May 9 on the boundary change during a regular business meeting.

“Fairfax High is projected to be approximately 600 students over capacity by the 2017-18 school year,” School Board member Patty Reed (Providence District) said. “It’s understood that the overcrowding is due to the numbers of county students attending these schools, recognizing that 65 percent of that student population from those schools are Fairfax County residents.”

The School Board approved Reed’s proposal to allow some families to move their rising seventh- and ninth-graders to their new school assignments a year earlier (fall 2013). Originally, school system staff had recommended the switch begin fall 2014. School Board members said this would eliminate a double-transition for rising seventh- and ninth-graders, who would start middle or high school (a new school transition) only to have to shift to another new middle or high school the following year.

“My amendment offers relief as soon as this coming school year, 2013,” Reed said. “Since Fairfax is overcapacity now, I imagine that the folks at Fairfax think this relief is a good thing. This provides maximum relief to Fairfax and Lanier. It ensures that we do not have to revisit this issue again in the near future and we can work on other critical facilities issues.”

School Board members voted unanimously to approve Reed’s proposed allowance.

Reed’s amendment also included reassignments of the Penderbrook and Fairfax Farms areas of the Waples Mill Elementary School attendance area from Lanier Middle to Franklin Middle School beginning fall 2013, and from Fairfax High to Oakton High School starting with the 2014-15 school year. This change would eliminate a split feeder assignment for Waples Mill Elementary School students.

“This amendment increases the relief for Fairfax High School and I’m happy to support it,” School Board member Ted Velkoff (At-large) said.

The School Board approved these changes.

School Board member Megan McLaughlin called the change a win-win for Fairfax High School and students who were being reassigned.

“Getting that 50 percent relief instantly as we start this boundary shift in 2014 is all that we could hope for,” she said.

However, some School Board members worried about the impact of shifting students from Fairfax High to Oakton High.

“One of the things the board had to be careful of when we started this process was not moving the overcrowding from one school to another school,” School Board member Kathy Smith (Sully District) said. “I am concerned that by the time we get to the point of the renovation at Oakton [High School] that we’re going to be in a tough spot and the school is going to be really crowded [and unable] to add the extra trailers [needed when renovating the interior during the school year]. And we don’t know at this point what the effect will be of these extra students…. If we have to add 5-6 extra trailers it’s going to make the renovation harder.

Changes to the Fairfax High and Lanier Middle school attendance areas aim to balance enrollment and facility capacity beginning next year. The boundary shift impacts seven schools: Lanier, Frost, Rocky Run middle schools, Fairfax, Woodson and Chantilly high schools and Robinson Secondary School.

More details on the boundary shift can be found at http://www.fcps.edu/fts/planning/fairfaxlanier/index.shtml.

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com