Residents alarmed by plan to shift students to Gar-Field

About 30 residents from three small subdivisions along Cardinal Drive bombarded Prince William school officials Wednesday night during a community meeting concerning proposed high school boundaries for 2004.

Planners with Prince William County Schools are in the process of redrawing high school boundaries to accommodate two new schools scheduled to open in 2004 –one in western Prince William along U.S. 15 and another along Neabsco Mills Road in Woodbridge.

Part of the planning process includes two community meetings to solicit feedback from residents who will be affected by the change and to amend the proposed boundaries.

During the meeting at Woodbridge High School on Wednesday, residents from one community were particularly perturbed by the proposed boundaries on the eastern part of the county.

A flood of parents from Neabsco Hills, Highbridge and Wexford areas wanted to know why, according to the proposed new boundaries, their children will have to attend Gar-Field High School instead of Forest Park High School, breaking the elementary and middle school feeder patterns.

David Beavers, a planning analyst with Prince William schools, said the goal of the new boundaries is to balance enrollment in all 10 high schools by 2011 to accommodate predicted countywide growth and to relieve overcrowding. For this reason, clusters of students will be shifted to different schools in 2004.

Neabsco Hills resident Monica Tacey, who has three children, said she was concerned because the 10-year enrollment projections still left both Gar-Field and Forest Park high schools beyond capacity at 102.5 percent and 104.8 percent, respectively.

Beavers estimated that about 150 students in the three communities will be affected.

Other parents echoed that the number was insignificant and their children ought to continue on to Forest Park High School in 2004.

“For our community of students to get ripped out, away from all the kids they grew up with –it’s going to be traumatic for our ninth-graders,” said Diane Gish, a parent living in Neabsco Hills.

The proposed boundaries show that clusters of students living within the Potomac, Gar-Field and Woodbridge high school boundaries will be sent to the new school on Neabsco Mills Road.

Near Manassas, students living within the current Stonewall Jackson boundaries north of U.S. 29 will attend the new school in Catharpin. A group of students living south of U.S. 29 and west of John Marshall Highway who are in the current Brentsville District will also attend the new school along U.S. 15.

In 2004, students starting the ninth and 10th grades will be required to attend the new schools, but students going into 11th grade will have a one-time choice to either attend a new school or remain at their current school.

There will be no 12th grade at both new high schools in 2004.

While the boundaries are redrawn to fill space at the new schools, some students will have to move between existing schools. For example, children living in the current Stonewall Jackson High School attendance area will attend Brentsville District High School in 2004. However, these changes will only affect those entering ninth grade.

The boundary changes will affect students now in the sixth and seventh grades, who will be required to change schools. Students in eighth grade this year will be given the opportunity to remain at the high school they start at next year.

School officials will hold a second community meeting at Stonewall Jackson High School, 8820 Rixlew Lane near Manassas, on Monday at 7:30 p.m.

The School Board is scheduled to vote on the boundaries June 26. A public hearing is scheduled for that date.

The proposed boundaries can be viewed at For questions regarding the boundaries, contact the Planning Office at (703) 791-7312.

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