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Arlington Parents Concerned Over Concentration Of Poverty In Schools

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Arlington County school leaders are preparing to draw new elementary school boundaries.
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Arlington County school leaders are preparing to draw new elementary school boundaries.

When Arlington County resident Linley Mancilla was trying to decide whether or not to send her daughter to the local neighborhood school, she looked at the boundary map and examined the demographics.

"Well, in my heart I wanted to send her to Carlin Springs," says Mancilla.

But Carlin Springs Elementary has low test scores, and a high concentration of poverty. Mancilla ended up sending her children to a different school. Now that the county school system is considering a plan to create new boundaries, she says she wants school board members to find a way to make sure all the poverty isn't concentrated in schools on the south side of the county.

"I think there should be some effort made to make the access to schools more equitable across all of Arlington, rather than just a few sectors of it," she says.

However, Mancilla says at the moment, there's no indication the board will do that. "There is the presumption that people are not going to voice their concern about this enough, and so they won't take action."

Mancilla is not alone.

"Carlin Springs, this one school, literally has more students who qualify for free and reduced lunch than all nine north Arlington elementary schools put together," says Fred Millar.

He says the school board should create a metric that no school would be able deviate from the district-wide percentage of poverty by more or less than 10 points. And, yes, he says, that means bussing.

"Two-thirds of our students are already bused to school," Millar says. "They get on and get off buses every day. So it's not like the bus is invented by the devil or something."

For parents who want to see action, the coming weeks and months will be critical, as Arlington School Board members determine a process for how they will create new boundaries -- whether they will keep children in their own neighborhoods, or whether they will integrate students who live in poverty with those who don't.

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