ASHBURN, Va. - A Loudoun County community is torn over a plan to rezone the school district. The process has taken a contentious tone with accusations surfacing that the plan would segregate poor and minority students in the county.
At the heart of this debate is the changing the zoning maps, which could return thousands of students to schools closer to their homes.
The controversy is over a zoning proposal called Plan 12. This plan would have reassigned nearly 2,000 low-income students who now attend economically integrated, diverse schools to two schools with higher poverty rates.
Some board members said the plan was developed to address overcrowding at Evergreen Mill Elementary School in Leesburg.
Currently, students in that area are attending several different schools and are being taken past closer schools.
But critics said Plan 12 would segregate many of Loudoun County’s impoverished and immigrant students.
This topic was at the top of Tuesday night’s agenda at a meeting at the school district’s headquarters.
On Tuesday night, the school board voted for a compromise and adopted Plan 8, an amended plan impacting a few hundred students instead of thousands.
We spoke with parents on both sides of the issue.
“I am in full support of Plan 12 because I believe that there is no reason why Central Loudoun needs to be the exception in Loudoun County,” said Michelle Taliafeero. “In Fairfax, Prince William, D.C. city schools, they do not take portions of their population and bus them across lines to another school just to balance demographics.”
“Plan 12 re-segregates us,” said Michelle Thomas. “It turns back the clock. It puts us right back into the 60s where we have segregated schools.”
Loudoun County's NAACP president Philipe Thompson broke down what he feels is at the root of the controversy.
“I live in one of the wealthier neighborhoods with kids in one of the schools and I understand that a lot of those parents are not happy with their kids going to a school that has a high number of English-learning kids and also free lunch kids,” he said. “These schools could potentially be Title 1 schools and I guess they believe, buying a million dollar house, they shouldn't have to send their kids to a Title 1 school.”
In recent days, the debate drew national attention after a grassroots advocacy group formed and took to social media using the hashtag #educatedontsegregate. On Tuesday night, they tweeted Plan 8 is why we are for a set of principles and not against a specific plan.