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12 February 2007

Dear Neighbors,

During the last year, there have been numerous calls by elected officials and citizens for greater participation in decisions about Western schools, both strategy and site selection. There are certain activities that need to take place in camera, such as negotiating the purchase of specific properties. However, there are also areas in which a formal joint planning process might take place.

On 30 November 2006 School Board Chairman Robert Dupree invited elected officials from the School Board, the Board of Supervisors, and each of the Western Towns to a public meeting on the topic of future school needs in Western Loudoun. Chairman Dupree advertised this meeting as an effort to initiate an on-going dialogue with these parties on the School Board’s future strategy for meeting Western Loudoun’s school needs. I attended that meeting and felt the dialogue between the parties was very helpful as was the dialogue I had with citizens in the audience afterwards. Based on comments made during the meeting and my conversation with the citizens afterwards, I prepared a document, “Western Schools Task Force: A Proposal by Blue Ridge Supervisor Jim Burton,” as a possible approach to ensure such a conversation continued.

On 10 January 2007 Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York held a follow-up meeting. At this meeting participants discussed my proposal and asked for certain changes to be made. These changes were made and the revised proposal sent out for comments. Further comments were then incorporated into the proposal and I placed it as an item on the Board’s 5 February 2007 agenda.   On Tuesday the Board unanimously approved the establishment of such a Task Force contingent upon its approval by the School Board and each of the relevant Town Councils.

The goal of this Task Force is not to rehash issues surrounding HS-3, but to address future needs in a way that we might avoid a similar debate in the future. Given that the County will need to build at least one, if not two, additional high schools in the future plus additional middle schools and elementary schools, we need to find better strategies for addressing Western school growth and site selection. Thus, subjects that the Task Force might consider include

  • school size: size vs. cost debate, cluster-school size symmetry
  • school design: “cookie cutter,” site-specific design, design-build, etc.
  • clustering: standard clustering, no clustering, clustering plus specialty schools
  • year-round schooling
  • interim solutions for the overcrowding of Loudoun Valley, Harmony, & Blue Ridge during the 2007-2008 school year and, if necessary, during the 2008-2009 school year.
  • preferred locations: in what general geographic areas should schools be sited; what criteria should the School Board use for site selection; review current policies and standards for school siting; etc.

Additional details of the proposal can be found on my County webpage.

The proposal calls for seating three citizens on the Task Force, one chosen by the Board of Supervisors, one by the School Board, and one by the Town Mayors through the Coalition of Loudoun Towns. The Board of Supervisors will appoint its citizen representative through the usual process. This involves the submission of a resume and statement of interest to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Submissions must be received by February 16th so that the Board can make its appointment at the Board meeting on the 20th.

I believe that this task force can serve as a means of furthering dialogue between all of the stakeholders in Western Loudoun. I was greatly pleased by my Board colleagues’ willingness to support it and I am hopeful that it will meet with the same support from the School Board and the various Town Councils.

Best regards,

Jim Burton