Boundary Policy Review - Spring 2024

The Fairfax County School Board is updating the Boundary Policy to provide a clear roadmap for any potential future boundary changes

For the first time in decades, the Fairfax County School Board is conducting a comprehensive review of the Fairfax County Public Schools Boundary Policy (Policy 8130) to consider possible updates that will provide a clear roadmap for any potential future boundary changes to provide students the most effective and safest instructional experiences. There are no specific boundary changes under consideration as part of this policy work. 

This holistic policy review is designed to address the community's concerns about a host of issues, including temporary classrooms (trailers), instructional program locations, overcrowding, facility renovation timelines, and transportation. Comprehensive community engagement will take place before any potential future boundary changes are considered.

Benefits of Policy Updates

According to educational research reviewed by the FCPS Office of Research and Strategic Improvement (ORSI), boundary adjustment decisions may be linked to better student achievement through instructional quality, budget optimization, and enhanced student well-being.

Instructional Quality 

Our goal is to continue our work providing each and every student with the exceptional educational experiences that draw families to FCPS. A clear roadmap for any potential boundary adjustments can:

  • Provide ideal class sizes and teacher-to-student ratios, as over and under-enrollment in schools is better managed.
  • Expand access to opportunities, facilities, and learning equipment and materials in a school that is not overcrowded.
  • Decrease overcrowding and allow for a more balanced enrollment-to-space ratio, which can enable new and expanded program placement that is dependent on need instead of available space.
  • Allow for reduced busing, commute time, and transportation costs.

Budget Optimization

A thoughtful review of boundaries can positively impact our school division's financial sustainability. A clear roadmap for potential boundary adjustments can:

  • Provide more timely and cost-effective results. While adding capacity to or renovating existing buildings is an attractive option for some, it is cost-prohibitive and time-consuming.
  • Prioritize available funding for maintenance work, safety and security needs, and the most needed school renovations. It could also reduce the time schools wait between major renovation projects (currently more than 40 years).
  • Maximize transportation routes, which can also reduce equipment costs and help alleviate driver shortages.

Student Well-Being

This work can support students’ physical and mental well-being, which is important to their educational experience.

Shorter Commutes and Positive Sleep Impact

  • The updated policy could result in shorter bus/car commute times (a top priority in the 2021 parent/guardian survey). This could also reduce earlier mornings and later evenings for some students.
  • If slight boundary adjustments are made on an established, consistent basis, larger and more disruptive adjustments can be avoided.
  • Students could have the ability to stay in neighborhood schools AND receive their desired programs. This could also result in fewer students transferring and parents/caregivers having to provide transportation.
  • Ultimately, this can positively affect the amount of sleep students get:
  • According to the National Sleep Foundation (2019), children ages 6 to 13 need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep, and teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep every night.
  • Children who get insufficient sleep show reductions in motivation, engagement, concentration, and problem-solving skills, all of which influence student achievement and behavior in school.

Stronger Social Connections

  • This work can reduce “split feeders” that divert students from remaining with a cohort of peers as they move on to high school.
  • Split feeders are not uncommon in FCPS due to legacy boundaries, which result from development, new schools, and previous boundary changes.
  • In the 2021 survey, parents/caregivers prioritized the ability of students to stay with friends or in their community.
  • Living close to a neighborhood school allows for stronger bonds between families and their school community.
  • With a shorter commute, families find it easier to engage with the school, participate in school activities, attend conferences, and take part in volunteer opportunities.
  • Families and schools can build stronger relationships and networks within the community to enhance the student educational experience.

Policy Consideration Process

  • Current: The School Board’s Governance Committee studies and considers potential updates to the Boundary Policy.
  • Future: The full School Board holds a work session to consider and discuss the Governance Committee’s suggested Boundary Policy updates.
  • Future: The full School Board considers and votes on any updates to the Boundary Policy and any directives on future work at a regular meeting.
  • Future: If adopted by the School Board, the superintendent will use the updated policy to review and propose any needed future changes to school boundaries.
Any potential future boundary changes will include robust community engagement, as required by the policy and the Code of Virginia.