Elementary School Planning for 2021

This page is designed to inform you of McKinley’s involvement in the proposed elementary school redistricting process. Visit the APS official website for the latest updates from the County.

A Letter from Mary Kadera

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

Key Dates in the Final Stretch

  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. https://www.apsva.us/engage/planning-for-2020-elementary-school-boundary-process/community-webinar-on-on-elementary-planning
  2. Public Hearing, Thurs 1/30 at 7 pm: Mark your calendars to attend and I also encourage you to sign up to speak: https://www.apsva.us/school-board-meetings/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.

Upcoming Dates

  • Jan 2: Sign up opens to speak at the 1/9 School Board meeting: https://www.apsva.us/school-board-meetings/sign-up-to-speak/
  • 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 change.org 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.

Key Points Heading into the Holiday Break

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,

Dec. 2 Joint Letter for APS Regarding School Moves

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.

Recap of Dec. 2 APS Meeting with PTA Presidents

On Dec. 2, I (PTA President Mary Kadera) attended a meeting organized by APS for PTA Presidents as well as leaders of CCPTA and SEPTA. Video of the meeting is archived on the Engage website, but my CliffsNotes version follows here:


  1. Participants raised many concerns about the proposed school moves, and APS's response to most of these was that these problems would all get fixed in the subsequent boundary change process. I addressed this squarely in the second question I got to ask APS (see below) and am still very troubled by what I perceive as unfounded optimism that everything will come out all right once we get to the boundary change phase.
  2. There was sharp criticism of APS that it was failing to factor in equity and diversity considerations as an important potential impact of school moves. Randolph, Campbell, CCPTA, and Key all spoke to this issue - more below.
  3. APS reported that it was possible they would issue additional proposals for the community to respond to, and their hope would be to do this by Dec 9 before the first of the "What We Heard" community meetings. They want to double-check any additional scenarios, however, before they get a public airing.

Here are some of the questions that got asked and responses given (paraphrased):

  • Mary's Question #1:
    One of the APS goals driving school moves is to free up neighborhood seats in areas of the county where they are projected to be needed and utilize excess capacity in the NW part of the county. Yet both APS proposals actually end up creating an even greater surplus of seats in the NW part of the county, according to the data you've published in "Analysis of Students Moving." So it seems like both proposals don't actually achieve this important goal. Can you help us understand this?
    • APS Response:
      APS's response was that we need to be mindful of PreK and special education programs (I am assuming they are referring to things like MIPA) which aren't currently included in "Analysis of Students Moving" and could consume some of this excess capacity.

      I countered with the statement, "But I am just talking about K-5 data for now. It would seem like school moves should get you at least *part way* to your goal of eliminating excess capacity in the NW part of the county. So, instead of 116 extra seats, school moves should help you get closer to zero. Instead, it pushes this number upwards of 300."

      APS answered that we shouldn't give too much weight to the numbers in the "Analysis of Students Moving" chart because things would get balanced out in the subsequent boundary change phase of the process.
  • Randolph's Question:
    Goals for the school move process don't consider diversity and equity. What steps are you taking to ensure that this part of the process won't actually exacerbate racial and socio-economic divides in the schools?
    • APS Response:
      APS responded that the school move process is something separate from boundary changes and thus doesn't have to factor in diversity or the other factors identified in the APS policy that governs boundary changes.  They also added that balancing student demographics would likely require more busing, and the ES principals had requested that APS not spend $$ on increased transportation, but instead allocate those funds towards more resources to support diverse students in their existing schools and classrooms.
  • Campbell's Question:
    Campbell asked APS to share Planning Unit-level demographic data for students. APS reiterated that the school move process would not factor in student demographics, which will be taken up in the subsequent boundary change process, and thus APS will not be sharing demographic information related to either of its two proposals. Campbell responded, "Then how will you prevent negative impacts [to balanced demographics] caused by school moves?" and APS responded that this would all be worked out in the boundary change phase.
  • CCPTA Commentary:
    APS is in the process of hiring a leader for diversity and equity and finalizing an equity policy stipulating that equity considerations should be front-and-center in all decision making. However, the school move process "excludes it entirely." CCPTA notes that proximity and efficiency, two of the six factors in APS's boundary change policy, are very much a priority in the school move process, but balancing demographics is not. CCPTA views this as problematic because the school move decision "directly impacts what we'll be able to do later...It needs to be a priority. It's supposed to be a priority."
  • SEPTA Questions:
    Our own Kathleen Clark, representing SEPTA, asked two good questions about the particular impact of school moves and boundary changes on special education students. APS responded that this was an "Instructional issue" that they want to build into the IPP and boundary change processes, in collaboration with the Department of Teaching and Learning and groups like ASEAC.

    It sounded very much like a work in progress with a pledge to "do things better" for special education populations. APS held out the possibility of administrative transfers that would allow some special education students to stay in their current schools, but Kathleen responded that this would be a difficult decision for families (following friends to a new school, or staying in the building you know...)
  • Mary's Second Question:
    I've heard repeatedly tonight that various concerns raised--like schools being over or under capacity, like continued (and even worsened) excess capacity in some parts of the county, like the diversity issues raised by many here--are all going to get settled down the road in the boundary change process. I am getting confused about why we are doing school moves, then, if the school moves are not getting us at least incrementally closer to accomplishing the goals you set out for the process in the first place.  If all these issues are going to get resolved in the boundary change phase, how can APS be sure that those boundary changes are going to get us to a good result? What information is giving you that level of confidence, and can you share it with us so that we can feel confident, too?
    • APS Response:
      APS's response--and I took detailed notes--was approximately this: "We need to know what sites will be neighborhood schools so that we can draw the boundaries. We need to finalize school moves so that we know what sites we're actually working with. Then we'll be able to draw the boundaries." 

Friends, this really worries me. 

All along I've said that it's the PTA's job to ensure that 1) families have information about what's coming and how to engage; 2) APS decisions are based on good data; and 3) APS is using a process that is fair and transparent. 

Based on everything we've seen over the past month, I believe it's vital for our PTA, and all others, to raise the alarm about the data and process. We'll talk more about this on Thursday night. 

- Mary

Important Dates Coming Up

Dates for Your Calendar:

  • Sunday, Nov 24: Last day to complete APS's online survey about Elementary School Planning. You can find that survey here: https://survey.k12insight.com/survey.aspx?k=RQsSRTVsQRPTsPsPsP
  • Monday, Dec 2 @ 7 pm: APS Meeting with PTA Presidents. Because APS staff can't meet individually with each school community (more on that below) it is convening a meeting with all PTA presidents that will be live-streamed to other interested folks in the community.
  • Tuesday, Dec 3 @ 7 pm: Regular PTA meeting. No 2021 Elementary School Planning info will be discussed at this meeting because we have some regular business to transact. Agenda items will include the fantastic Kevin Trainor to talk about gifted services and differentiated instruction; Colin Brown on McKinley's 2019-20 School Management Plan; the APS Family Life Education curriculum; and more.
  • Thursday, Dec 5 @ 7 pm: 2021 Elementary School Planning Update Meeting for McK Families. This meeting is for current McKinley families and will allow us to share what's happened since our Nov 4 meeting. There has been a lot of information shared out by APS, data analysis, back-and-forth with APS staff and School Board members, and exchanges with other school communities. In particular, we'll want to dig into the question, "What is the data showing?" as it relates to the two APS proposals under consideration and other possible alternatives. This meeting will help us prepare for a thoughtful discussion with School Board member Barbara Kanninen (see below). Participation in this "pre-meeting" isn't required for your attendance at the meeting with Barbara--but it's strongly encouraged. (And yes--I know it is the same night as a School Board meeting--apologies for this conflict. Note that there are other opportunities to engage with School Board members collectively and individually in the month of Dec.)
  • Dec 9, 10, 16: APS "What We Heard" Community Meetings at Swanson, Central Library, and Kenmore.  For those who can't attend these evening meetings (see APS Engage site for start times), there will be a webinar on Dec 13 from 12-1 pm.
  • Wednesday, Dec 11 @ 7 pm: McKinley Family Meeting with Barbara Kanninen. Barbara is McKinley's School Board liaison and she's offered to come and meet with us about the 2021 ES Planning initiative. This meeting is for current McKinley families. 

Other Actions Taken:

  • Since I wrote on Tuesday, I've sent a draft copy of a joint letter to the CCPTA and individual PTA Presidents at other Arlington elementary schools encouraging them to join us in requesting that the School Board not take any vote on school moves on February 6. There are five PTAs currently signing this letter (McK, ATS, Key, Carlin Springs, and Campbell) and we hope to add more. McK's PTA executive board has reviewed and approved it. If you have contacts in the PTA leadership at other schools, please encourage them to give this careful consideration. We hope to send this letter next week before the Thanksgiving break; I will provide you all with the final version after it's sent.
  • I wrote to APS staff with a few additional data requests, in response to the letter they sent us on Tuesday, and asked them a) to provide working versions of the links on pp. 5-6 of their letter (a few of you noted, like I did, that these links lead to error pages) and b) to ask for a few additional pieces of data that will help us analyze their proposals more thoroughly. If you'd like to see this email I sent, please let me know and I will forward it to you.
  • I spoke to APS staff member Lisa Stengle yesterday about various things, including to confirm whether APS staff could come and meet with our community. Lisa let me know that in the past, APS staff members' meetings with individual school communities had raised concerns that those conversations might be unduly influencing outcomes, so that CCPTA and John Chadwick (Assistant Supt for Facilities & Operations) have requested that these types of meetings cease. It's APS's hope that this will ensure equitable treatment of all schools' considerations and a more transparent process--goals that I personally support. Instead of meetings with individual schools, APS staff will convene the Dec 2 meeting of PTA presidents (also live-streamed) and the 3 public meetings in December, all described above.

APS Response to our Nov. 6 Letter

Dear McKinley Families,

I just received a response from APS staff to the McK PTA's letter dated Nov 6. I am chaperoning at the Outdoor Lab and have not had a chance to review the response (the letter is 6 pp, plus a separate doc with responses to our Q's). I'll read it once I am not around kids with flaming hot dogs--but wanted to get it to you all straight away.

***Note in particular that APS intends to move forward with a Feb 6 vote on option school moves. Also, I asked specifically whether they would like to meet with us *before* we arrange a meeting with Barbara Kanninen, and it seems they would like for us to proceed directly to a mtg with Barbara.

In light of this, I am working on the following:

  1. A response to APS indicating missing data we feel we need to have by the end of this month. (I have a running list, but please email me if you think of something I may be missing.) This data will further our analysis of the two APS proposals and determine if we can come up with a better option.
  2. I am working to schedule a meeting with McK parents and Barbara Kanninen. Before we have this meeting, I will also schedule an internal "what the data shows" PTA meeting where we can all regroup and get our analysis/arguments in sharp focus.
  3. I am finalizing a joint letter from as many PTAs as possible to the School Board requesting they advise APS staff that they will not take a vote in Feb. I will finalize this draft when I get home from the Outdoor Lab, get it out to other PTAs tonight or tomorrow morning, and we will send it next Tuesday.

I will sign up to speak at the first School Board mtg after Thanksgiving to make the same request as in the joint letter, and I will encourage you to think about going to School Board office hours in Dec to ask the same--you will get a copy of this joint letter once it is finalized next week so that you can underscore the same concerns if you would like to.

More soon--

APS response to our letter dated Nov. 6

APS response to specific questions included in our letter

SHARE YOUR INPUT About Elementary Proposals by Nov. 24

Community members can get information resources and participate in a questionnaire about two proposals that explore moving some elementary schools to address challenges that APS will face when beginning the process in Fall 2020 to develop new boundaries for Sept. 2021. The proposals may be potentially revised as APS gathers stakeholder ideas and suggestions through a community engagement process, underway now until School Board action on Feb. 6, 2020. The questionnaire is open through Nov. 24, 2019. Changes would take effect in Sept. 2021.

  • Find more information—including the boundary challenges, proposals to move schools, FAQs, community engagement timeline and more at APS Engage
  • View a video and an Information Session that explain the proposals and address some common questions
  • Share your input using a bilingual community questionnaire available through November 24 at APS Engage 

View the Nov. 6 School Board Work Session on the 2021-30 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which will address future school infrastructure needs.

English Infographic: Pages 1-2

Infográfica en español: páginas 1-2

Letter to APS Regarding Proposed Boundary Changes

This morning I sent a letter from the McKinley PTA to APS staff requesting a process change and asking some initial, foundational questions about the information and proposals APS has shared to date. The final version of this letter is available here and may be shared with others outside our community (note that representatives from the School Board, FAC, and CCPTA have already been cc'd). 

To avoid any confusion about "what McKinley sent to APS" we've removed the draft version of the letter, but if you'd like to compare versions please email me and I'll be happy to help.

30 of you provided feedback after Monday's meeting that informed my letter revisions and I am incredibly grateful for your contributions--the result is stronger because of your involvement. I hope you see your feedback reflected in the final version--I worked hard to try and incorporate what I was hearing and still keep our communication clear and focused. 

I will, of course, be sharing out what I hear, both in response to the letter and in response to our request for a meeting date with APS staff members sometime this month.

Thanks for all you do, Mary

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