To the Editor: Regarding Redistricting

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Regarding Redistricting

I am writing as a member of the recent Redistricting Advisory Committee, as well as a parent of two Brownsville Elementary students, in response to the recent article regarding a potential expansion of Crozet Elementary (Redistricting Committee Recommends “Holding Pattern” for Elementary Schools, January 2013).

First, I’d like to address the notion that a vote for the “holding pattern” option at Meriwether Lewis School “had become a move to add on” to Crozet elementary. In fact, the committee’s decision to recommend against redistricting at MLS was determined, in its entirety, by issues regarding capacity and space utilization at that individual school building. Based on current class sizes, as well as additional available classroom space, the committee determined there was “no compelling reason” to redistrict between 30-50 students at this time. There was no discussion of adding onto Crozet elementary as a way to deal with excess enrollment at MLS.

The idea of an expansion at Crozet elementary is a separate line of discussion for the committee and relates to anticipated enrollment growth in the Crozet area. The committee voiced almost unanimous concerns about the ability of the two Crozet elementary schools to handle an expected influx of students over the next five to 10 years, which is a practical inevitability due to current and planned housing development in the area. The committee believes that recommendation of an expansion to Crozet elementary is the most expeditious and cost-effective way to increase school capacity for our local schools. Further, after reviewing feasibility studies and building plans provided by the county, as well as investigating the estimated number of new homes to be built in the area, the committee recommended that the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee (LRPAC) explore the idea of a larger addition to the school. In light of expected housing growth, such as the planned Westlake Hills community (which is zoned for Crozet Elementary), the committee believes that it would be ultimately ineffective to expand the school by only 130 seats, as the current plan states.

At a time when capital resources are scarce, and knowing that additional resources will be needed to address growth at WAHS and Henley, it’s important (and practical) for us to consider options that optimize existing school buildings for the long-term. A large expansion at the school is physically possible, had already been studied and designed, and provides the most flexibility for future enrollments at a cost that will be significantly less than a new school building.

Second, I’d like to address relates to concerns voiced by the Crozet Elementary PTO about the “ideal size” of their school. Many statements have been made that the size of Brownsville elementary, which is now at 707 students, is not “healthy.” As an active PTO member, I take issue with the notion that growth, per se, is always a negative thing for schools. Brownsville is, in many ways, a state-of-the-art physical building, and boasts a number of technological and other learning tools that enhance student learning on a daily basis. Class sizes at Brownsville are properly sized, so that even though the overall school population is large, the student/teacher ratio has remained stable over the years of growth.   Special classes, such as art, music, and PE are high priorities at Brownsville, and there has been a push to increase the reach of gifted and intervention programs for all students.  One of my son’s favorite activities is when his first grade class is visited by the Gifted teachers for math enrichment.  Student achievement is high, and the student population is increasingly diverse.

I also believe the quality of the Brownsville environment is of extremely high quality. Teacher and administration interaction with students happens often; my fifth grade daughter is often asked by teachers and administrators about her soccer games or other outside-of-school interests. Parents are always welcomed and are, generally, highly involved in all types of school activities. I am greeted on a first-name basis each time I visit the school, as is my two-year-old son, who freely gives out hugs and high-fives to a number of staff and students at Brownsville! I know that my children are known and cared-about by the teachers and administrators at Brownsville. The idea that a school environment will automatically become “unhealthy” simply by virtue of a certain enrollment size is certainly not being borne out at Brownsville Elementary.

Nor do I believe this would happen with an expansion at Crozet. A number of Brownsville parents, me included, would likely be impacted by redistricting moves between the two schools. We would look forward to being equally active at any future school. The article referenced the past “rich community with lots of engagement” that used to be the norm at Crozet elementary.  I believe that an expansion of the school could once again provide a way to increase volunteerism and, ultimately, strengthen the school community.

Of course, we know that large schools can become institutional, anonymous places where students can easily get lost in the shuffle. However, it’s my strong belief that school growth can be managed proactively, with focus and foresight that emphasizes strong administrative leadership and an exceptional teaching staff.  Positive growth also makes room for parent involvement, and encourages collaborative partnerships between schools, PTOs, and the larger communities. I have seen all of this being carried out with much success at Brownsville, and believe it can happen at Crozet elementary as well.

Kelly Gobble
Crozet

3 COMMENTS

  1. Letter to the Editor:

    We are officers of the Crozet Elementary PTO. We were surprised to read the letter written by Kelly Gobble and posted in the February issue of the Crozet Gazette in which Mrs. Gobble states that the Crozet Elementary PTO has concerns that Brownsville Elementary is not a “healthy” size. The Crozet Elementary PTO has no such concerns. The Crozet Elementary PTO seeks to make sure that parents, staff and others involved with Crozet Elementary are aware of activities by the Albemarle County School staff, including the long range planning committee, which could impact Crozet Elementary. We have posted information from the county about meetings and encouraged the Crozet Elementary community to provide input to the representatives the school has on the redistricting subcommittee as well as to Albemarle County School staff. We particularly want to ensure that parents are informed and express their respective opinions. The Crozet Elementary PTO has not taken any particular position in regards to a possible expansion of enrollment and or a physical addition.

    We respect the entire Brownsville Elementary community and wish the students, parents and staff all the best.

    Monica Brooks, Crozet Elementary PTO President
    DJ Stoeberl, Crozet Elementary PTO Vice President
    Vicki Jones, Crozet Elementary PTO Secretary
    Beth Bassett, Crozet Elementary PTO Treasurer

  2. What a thoughtful letter penned by Mrs. Gobble. Obviously, there are no easy answers when considering how to move students from one school to another. We can be thankful for the economic growth in the Crozet area, and also have gratitude for the parents who want to work together for common and steadfast solutions. Keep workingn the equation. Together you will get the results you desire.

  3. “Having 450 students is imaginable, maybe even healthy,” said parent Karen Rubendall, “but going to 600 is too much.”

    While the Crozet PTO might not have such concerns (and I am certain they do not, based on a number of wonderful discussions I’ve had with several members of the school community), my letter was in response to the Gazette’s publication of the above quote as representative of the Crozet PTO as a whole. Brownsville has a student enrollment of 707 this year, which, one would assume, Ms. Rubendall might consider “unhealthy”. My letter was an expression of all the reasons I believe BES is quite the opposite.

    All of us at BES are excited about the future of Crozet, and already enjoy outstanding community relationships with several families from Crozet elementary. Our children and families play sports together, are in the same scouting groups, attend church together, and are all part of what makes our community so wonderful.

    Kelly Gobble

    P.S. Regarding the kind words of the 2nd commenter, above, written by my biggest fan: Thanks, Mom.

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