Dear McKinley Friends,

I’m writing you about the School Board vote taken earlier this evening. In case you missed it, the School Board voted 4-1 to approve the APS Recommendation on elementary school moves. (Reid Goldstein was the dissenting vote. I just ordered flowers to be delivered to him tomorrow from all of us at McK.)

The vote means that in September 2021, the Key Immersion program will move into the ATS building, and the ATS program will move into the McKinley building. About 60-70% of McKinley’s student body will likely transfer to the new school at the Reed site, with the remainder of McK students going to one or more other nearby schools. We’ll know more about that next fall, when APS staff presents new boundaries for all neighborhood elementary schools (the School Board will vote on these new boundaries in December.)

It was an emotional night and it still feels somewhat shocking, given that (in my opinion) the decision defies all logic. I am really sad for all those past and present who have known and loved McKinley as their neighborhood school. I am equally sad for Escuela Key and ATS, particularly for their low-income families who may not be able to move with those programs. I don’t think this vote will be remembered as a high point in APS’s narrative about championing diversity and inclusion.

I’m reaching out to ask two things of you:

  • First, I imagine there are a range of reactions to tonight’s vote. I imagine that for some families a stone’s throw away from Reed, this vote may not feel the same as for those who live a block from McKinley’s building. Likewise, those whose kids will have moved on to middle school by Sept 2021 may feel this less acutely than those whose kids are younger. Whatever your particular feeling is, I hope we can all be respectful and supportive of one another. We have a year and a half still to go as a McKinley community and I really hope we’ll make the most of our time together.
  • Second, I’d like to urge that we be really careful with our language (and I’ve also mentioned this to Colin and Gina M. to share with school staff.) Please let’s not say “McKinley is moving to Reed” because that’s not in fact what is happening. It’s quite possible that the Kaleidoscope program and most of the staff will move to the new school, but 30-40% of families won’t. It would be confusing to some of our kiddos, and upsetting to some of our families, to use the “moving to Reed” language to describe what’s happening. I don’t have an elegant phrase to recommend instead, but I just hope we can be thoughtful in how we talk about what’s happening.

That’s more than enough for tonight. Thank you for all you’ve done. I believe we did all we could have, and we did it with intelligence and integrity. I am so proud of you all.

– Mary

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  1. Webinar, TODAY at 12:30: APS is hosting this webinar to share their analysis of the alternative proposals that were submitted by the community.
  2. Public Hearing, Thurs 1/30 at 7 pm: Mark your calendars to attend and I also encourage you to sign up to speak: I will be in TX for work but am happy to help any of you who want to speak and need talking points, an editor, moral support, etc–just let me know.
  3. Adult Gathering, Sun 2/9, 8-10 pm: No matter which way the vote goes on Feb 6, we deserve to gather and heave a collective sigh of… something. The PTA presidents of McKinley, Key, and ATS have agreed on Punchbowl Social in Ballston as the centrally-located spot for this gathering. Kids welcome too, if you like, but our intention is to raise a glass together in recognition of our collective hard work.
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  • Jan 2: Sign up opens to speak at the 1/9 School Board meeting:
  • Jan 2 & 3: Reid Goldstein is meeting with Nathan McQueen and me to talk about the various alternative proposals that have been developed and get a better understanding of what we are seeing in the data. (Nathan is the powerhouse here–I am talking to Reid on Fri morning about Emily Chen’s “no moves” scenario, prepped by Emily.) If you speak with Reid, please let him know how much you appreciate him taking the time to engage with us in this way.
  • Jan 6: Office Hours with Barbara Kanninen, 5-7 pm
  • Jan 7: Regular McK PTA meeting, 7 pm in the school library. We have a couple of brief updates about the Instructional Program Pathways and the Family Life Education curriculum, but we’ll also spend a chunk of time on APS stuff.
  • Jan 9: School Board meeting at 7 pm
  • Jan 13: Office Hours with Reid Goldstein, 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Mary attending CCPTA meeting to try and generate more support from other PTAs and CCPTA.
  • Jan 21: Office Hours with Tannia Talento, 8:30 – 10:30 am
  • Jan 27: Office Hours with Nancy Van Doren, 5-7 pm
  • Jan 30: Public Hearing, 7 pm
  • Feb 3: Office Hours with Monique O’Grady, 6-8 pm
  • Feb 6: School Board Meeting and Vote, 7 pm
  • Ongoing: Jon Judah and Jen Myers are working with parents from ATS who have PR/media experience and contacts. They’re developing pitches for reporters and exploring a petition. If 1 or 2 more McK parents with relevant experience/contacts can help them out, that would be great. Please contact Jen or Jon directly, or you can email me.
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A few quick ES Planning updates as you are readying for the holidays…

  1. Goals of School Moves: It occurred to me that part of our communication problem with APS staff and School Board members seems to be that we keep objecting that Option 1 doesn’t really address APS’s six goals for the ES Planning Process–and this is because those goals are for the process *as a whole* not for the school move piece specifically. So I wrote to Lisa Stengle and team and asked them what their goal(s) were for the school move phase. Lisa wrote back last night to say that their goals for school moves are twofold:
    • Freeing up neighborhood seats in high-growth areas, specifically the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, and
    • Minimizing the possibility of long bus rides for some students who might have to travel farther to their neighborhood schools if McKinley and Reed are both open as neighborhood sites. Lisa notes that some of McKinley’s current planning units are closer to Glebe, north of Reed, and some pass by Ashlawn to get to McKinley. While our crack team of data-crunchers might have numerical arguments to make in response, my larger concern is that we have been told repeatedly that school moves are separate from boundary changes–so boundaries and busing shouldn’t be factoring in.

    Nonetheless, having APS articulate a more focused set of goals for the school move phase is helpful to all of us and should be front-and-center for the School Board as it votes on which moves, if any, make sense. The community-developed alternatives actually outperform APS’s proposal on freeing up needed seats in high-growth areas–an important point to drive home.

  2. Questioning Process: I created a one-sheeter that outlines some of the key process concerns that have emerged over the past couple months. It’s attached here–please reference it and share it in whatever ways you think might be helpful.

  3. NO School Moves?? Earlier today I sent a letter to the School Board and APS staff asking them to consider a proposal that is boundary-changes-only. The data crunching was done by our own Emily Chen, and thanks go to Francisca Winston for drawing up the accompanying maps. Kelly King and I decided to ride their coattails and sign the letter, too. 🙂  Again, please share as you see fit. Note that while I wasn’t comfortable sharing in detail some of the other community-developed alternative scenarios via PTA channels (because of negative impacts on other schools), because this one includes no school moves I think it’s a more “PTA-friendly” option to shop around. It has also gone to CCPTA and others.

Please reach out if you have any questions or ideas. The best things you can do at this point are to:

  • make sure your friends and neighbors are engaged
  • write letters to the editor using the various talking points shared (and one-sheeters attached), and 
  • contact the School Board. 

I am working on getting other school communities engaged via their PTAs, because I think this process should concern *all* of us. Your efforts to engage your friends at other schools would be helpful here, too.


More soon,

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Two quick updates:

  1. Joint letter:
    On Dec. 2, I sent the Arlington School Board a letter requesting that they advise APS staff that the School Board will not take a vote on school moves in February. This letter is attached. It was cosigned by six other PTAs and together we represent more than 2,700 families across the county. 

    I had hoped that additional PTAs would sign on, but it’s become clear that *many* school communities not immediately impacted by APS’s two proposals are only beginning to educate themselves about what’s going on, and hence many felt it was too early for them to sign on. Nevertheless, I hope the letter will make an impression on the School Board, and I plan to speak at the Dec 19 School Board meeting to underscore the importance of better data and a better process. 

    I know that many of you are reaching out to APS and School Board members individually, and I encourage you to drive home the points that we see serious flaws in both the data and process, and we are alarmed that it will yield poor results for the county (not just for McKinley). More on this when we meet this Thursday.

  2. Thursday’s special PTA meeting:
    This Thursday night at 7 pm there will be a special PTA meeting for current McK families and staff in the school cafeteria. We’ll talk about what we’re seeing in the data, what it means for both McK and the county as a whole, and what we can do moving forward. I encourage you to attend.
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