Falmouth Redistricting

The Stafford County School Board is considering a redistricting proposal that will involve Falmouth, Margaret Brent and Ferry Farm elementary schools.   The proposal is intended to implement moves that were planned after Falmouth Elementary School renovation was complete and to alleviate some lengthy bus rides for students. 

As my friend Dewayne McOsker likes to say here is the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front):

The proposals move students in neighborhoods off Plantation Drive that currently attend Ferry Farm and Margaret Brent and moves them to Falmouth ES.   The proposal is currently under School Board consideration.  To adopt the proposal the School Board will need to hold a public hearing and will need to vote on adopting the proposal at regular or special called meeting.  The timing of the public hearing and adoption would be early Spring 2017 and it would most likely be implemented at the start of the 2017-2018 School Year.

Background:  Prior to the renovation project of Falmouth Elementary School (FES) the two APU's being proposed to be moved to FES were within the FES attendance zone in the Rocky Run ES attendance zone, but were proposed to be moved Falmouth Attendance zone after the renovation was complete.  As a part of a redistricting at the time to provide relief to Rocky Run the APUs were sent to the schools they currently attend..   When moves were made to have students in FES attend Stafford Middle School during the renovation the two APUs were moved to other schools in consideration of long bus rides for students.  It was intended the two APUs would be moved back to FES after renovations were complete.  For a variety of reasons the returning final move was never made.

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Source Map: download

Proposal:  Students from the Manor at England Run currently attend Ferry Farm Elementary School and are proposed to move to Falmouth.   Students from England Run Pointe currently attend Margaret Brent Elementary School and are proposed to move to Falmouth.

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Impact on Falmouth Elementary School:

The two APUs currently have a combined 117 elementary school aged children.  The current number of students at FES is 552 students.  The current capacity of the school is 69.3%.  With the additional students from the two APUs plus two additional proposed Pre-K classes the used capacity will rise to 86.27%.

The increased number of students will also have an effect on the free and reduced lunch students at Falmouth.  The current percentage of students on free and reduced lunch is 35.69%   With the students from the two APUs the free and reduced percentage will rise to 39.91%*

             *data is based on the current population of students at both Falmouth and from the proposed APUs to be moved.

The school division staff prepared the following tables for detailed information:

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Why is the School Board considering this?

For both APUs there is concern about the length of the bus ride the students have going and coming home from school.   For the students in Manor at England Run that currently attend Margaret Brent Elementary School their afternoon bus ride is often long and students do not arrive home until nearly or after 5 PM.   The route the bus has to take to get those students too and from school is on some of Stafford County's most dangerous roads.  For students in England Run Point that currently attend Ferry Farm Elementary School the length of the bus ride is also of concern.  However the school transportation department did study the routes and the length of the bus ride is about the same for them going to Ferry Farm as it would be Falmouth.  However Falmouth is slightly more convenient for the families to be able to get to.

The percentage of capacity used at Margaret Brent is also a concern for the students in the Manor at England Run.  Margaret Brent's current used capacity is 95.37%.

What would change at Falmouth Elementary School?

School division staff have met with Mrs. Johnakin-Putnam on how FES can welcome and absorb these students.  They have made the proposals below to change how rooms are used within the school building to accommodate the increased student population and create two additional Pre-K classrooms that have been previously proposed.

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 Will class sizes rise with the increased number of students at FES

NO!  Last year the School Board adopted staffing standards and class size caps in elementary schools.   Class sizes are capped at 24 students in grades K-3 and 26 for 4th and 5th grade.   If this proposal does not allow us to meet those standards I will not support the move.

My Concerns

I am concerned about the increased population at FES and in particular the increased free and reduced lunch population.  I am also not 100% convinced the proposed moves solves the problems we are trying to solve.   I want to ensure we are not moving these students around now and then move them again in a few years.   These students come from some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods and they deserve as high, consistent and quality education as any other student in Stafford County.  They have been moved a few times over the last decade and I want to ensure we are making decisions in their best interest.

Computer lab.   Transforming the computer lab into a mobile computer lab concerns me because I want to ensure FES students have the same capabilities as their peers in other schools and they can receive the same computer/technology curriculum as they currently do on hard wired desktop computers.  Furthermore the laptops for the mobile computer lab must be purchased by the school division and must be included in a routine replacement cycle.  Wear and tear on the laptops will increase over that of desktops.  We need to ensure students at FES do not suffer from that.  I will not support any proposal that puts the burden of laptop purchases or replacements for computer lab computers on the PTO.  PTOs are great partners when they purchase additional technology for classroom use, but those purchases should be in addition to the what the school division must supply.   A functional computer lab is a basic need and requirement for our elementary schools. 

 

When will this happen?

First and foremost this is not a done deal.  The School Board will have a public hearing and will have the proposal on a regular meeting agenda to vote for or against final approval.   I am estimating the public hearing will be scheduled for sometime in February or early March.   The final approval will be on the agenda in late March or early April.   The School Board may have additional work sessions and/or public meetings over the course of the next couple of months.   For example on Tuesday 12/20 we have a work session and a special called meeting related to redistricting.   

I will be working with the school administration and PTO to determine the level of interest of hosting a town hall style public meeting and will make myself available if such a meeting is desired by the FES community.

What to do if you have concerns?

1. Contact me.  You can reach me on my Facebook page or by email at hironscs@staffordschools.net.   If you want to post public comments feel free to make comments on this post or on my Facebook page post.  I always encourage public comment to have a thorough discussion of any topic of concern.

2. Attend public meetings of the School Board.  Our calendar of meetings can be found here: http://www.staffordschools.net/Page/2

3.  Please attend the Public Hearing on this topic and have your voice heard.  Once it is scheduled I will post the date on my FB page.

 

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