Redistricting FAQs

  • As Alexandria City Public Schools embarks on the implementation of the new school boundaries drawn up through the redistricting, we would like to do everything possible to lessen the impact on families. These Frequently Asked Questions provide responses to questions that will most likely be of interest to our community. This document will be continually updated and shared.

    General Questions

    Why are we redrawing school attendance boundaries?

    Enrollment in Alexandria City Public Schools has been growing by an average of 500 students a year since 2011 and is expected to continue growing through 2030, which has created crowding in our schools. To accommodate this growth, the school division is using the Long Range Educational Facilities Plan, in addition to staff’s review of enrollment and building data, to implement a modernization process that will address our capacity and building condition needs now and in the future. Even with these steps, there is a need to look at student assignment and enrollment across our schools. Currently, all elementary schools are at capacity with the exception of Jefferson-Houston PreK-8 and Cora Kelly.

    When was the last time Alexandria redistricted?

    The last time Alexandria City Public Schools changed school boundaries was in 1999.

    What is the timeline for the redistricting process?

    The School Board voted on the new school in January 2017. Implementation of the new school boundaries is currently scheduled for fall 2018.

    What criteria were used to make decisions about the new school boundaries?

    The Alexandria City School Board adopted a set of criteria to guide it through the redistricting process.

    Will my family be affected?

    To see whether your family will be affected, please view the interactive map. ACPS understands the difficulties and frustrations that can arise from changing school zones and aims to make any transitions as smooth as possible.

    Will consideration be given to families who moved to a certain subdivision in order to enroll their children in specific schools?

    As the division grows and changes, there is never a guarantee that a subdivision will remain assigned to a specific school or set of schools.

    Was the impact that decisions could have on property values considered?

    This was not one of the guiding principles for the establishment of attendance boundaries.

    How often will we need to redraw school attendance boundaries?

    We cannot predict when we might need to reconsider school zones again. ACPS has not redrawn boundaries since 1999. Our recommendation is that policies be established that would require the school division, at a minimum, to undergo a comprehensive review of boundaries every five years. This recommendation will change based on new buildings or changes in projected enrollments. Please see School Board Policy BBA

    Process

    What was the process for redrawing the school attendance boundaries?

    In October 2015, the School Board appointed a Redistricting Review Committee made up of 35 parents, community representatives and a high school student. The Redistricting Review Committee looked at proposed options with the support of an independent third party and recommended an option that was reviewed by ACPS staff and the School Board and finally approved by the School Board in January 2017.

    Who made up the Redistricting Review Committee?

    There were 35 people on the Redistricting Review Committee, two representatives from each school, a high school student and two at-large community members. 

    What was the role of the Redistricting Review Committee?

    The role of the Redistricting Review Committee was to develop recommendations to the School Board.

    What happened if a member of the Redistricting Review Committee dropped out?

    Procedures for replacing committee members were developed by the Redistricting Steering Committee. The Redistricting Steering Committee considered applications that had already been received together with any new ones submitted during a new eight-day application period.

    The Redistricting Review Committee member criteria were updated on February 4, 2016 to ensure that all places on the Redistricting Review Committee are filled. New members were chosen through an open application process with preference given to individuals who met all of the following qualifications:

    • Resident of the City of Alexandria
    • Willing to attend two committee meetings per month
    • Has some understanding of ACPS and its operations
    • Has at least one student in the school that they represent with the exception of the community at-large members
    • Willing to provide committee progress updates to and seek input from various civic, school and community organizations
    • Ability to remain objective in the committee and community engagement process

    Who sat on the Redistricting Steering Committee?

    The Redistricting Steering Committee was made up of School Board Member representing District A, Hal Cardwell, School Board Member representing District B, Cindy Anderson and School Board Member representing District C, Ramee Gentry (Chair of the Redistricting Steering Committee). The committee was supported by ACPS staff in an advisory role.

    What was the role of the Redistricting Steering Committee?

    The Redistricting Steering Committee was responsible for overseeing the process of redistricting and worked in conjunction with J.R. Reingold & Associates Inc., an independent third party, to define the process of redistricting.

    Who was the independent third party?

    J.R. Reingold & Associates Inc. 

    Implementation

    When will redistricting be implemented?

    The implementation of the new school boundaries has begun and is scheduled to take effect in time for start of the 2018 school year. There is an implementation plan for parents and students to transition them to their new school.

    When will I know where my child is assigned?

    Families who are directly affected by the process will be contacted in November 2017. Letters will be sent out to every household notifying them of any changes.

    Will changing schools be disruptive for students?

    Most students are quick to adapt to changes. Past experience has shown that students, for the most part, adjust well to changing schools if the adults in their lives make the process as positive as possible.

    Policies Regarding Redistricting

    A glossary of terms used in the following explanation of redistricting policies is included at the end of this section.

    How many students will be affected by redistricting?

    The majority of students will not be transferred to a new school during the redistricting process. The boundary changes will affect several hundred students at six elementary schools.

    Will my children be grandfathered-in/phased-in to their new school?

    The policies state that rising fourth- and fifth-grade students, including students who are currently attending a school other than their boundary school due to a capacity reassignment, may request to stay in their current school. Any sibling of the rising fifth-grade student may opt to remain for that next school year only, at which time they would transition to the newly redistricted school. Any sibling of a rising fourth-grade student may opt to remain for the next two school years, at which time they would transition to the newly redistricted school. Alternatively, parents of fourth-and fifth-grade students may opt to place one or all of their children in the newly zoned school without delay. Any families that wish to remain in their current school for the next school year must provide a Notice of Intent by January 15, 2018.

    This is explained in School Board regulation JCE-R.

    Can I opt for one of my children to stay and one to move to their newly assigned school?

    Yes, according to School Board redistricting policy JCE. The parents/guardians of rising fourth- and fifth-grade students may opt to immediately place one or all of their children in the newly assigned boundary school. In order for the other siblings to remain at their current school for the following year, however, the fourth- or fifth-grade student must also remain at the current school.

    This is outlined in School Board policy JCE.

    If the new boundaries show my fourth- or fifth-grade student has been assigned a new school, when do I have to make a decision about where I want my children to go to school?

    According to the School Board redistricting policies, families of rising fourth- and fifth-grade students must let the school know by January 15, 2018, should they wish to remain at their current school for the following year. Both fourth- and fifth-grade students and their siblings will automatically be assigned to their new school unless a Notice of Intent is received before this date.

    This is outlined in School Board policy JCE and regulation JCE-R

    Can I opt to send my child to a school other than the one to which they are assigned under the new boundaries?

    According to the School Board redistricting policies voted on May 19, 2016, all students shall attend the school in the attendance area in which they live and/or to which they are assigned.

    Parents/guardians may request to have their child enrolled in a school other than their assigned neighborhood school if they wish to enroll them in a specific educational program. Designated school programs in ACPS are the Dual Language Program, the K-8 Program and the Modified Calendar Program. These programs will be primarily open to students living within the attendance zone, but these schools will accept transfers if there is space.

    Programmatic transfers between schools are covered by School Board policy JC.

    What are the programmatic transfers available for my child?

    Opt-in options are limited to designated educational programs. These are defined as the Dual Language Program, the K-8 Program and the Modified Calendar Program. According to the policies voted on May 19, 2016, it will be possible to opt in to the Dual Language Program, K-8 Program and the Modified Calendar program.

    Is the grandfathering/phasing-in policy different for the Dual Language Program?

    According to School Board policies, students currently enrolled in a Dual Language program will be allowed to continue in the program until its completion. It is expected that most students entering the Dual Language program will start at kindergarten, given the sequential nature of the program and its alignment with instructional program requirements. Any student seeking admission to the Dual Language program during grades 2-5 will be reviewed on a case by case basis to ensure the student can fully access and participate in the appropriate grade level Dual Language curriculum. Transportation is provided for students opting in and out of this program.

    Students who have received programmatic transfers may request to return to their boundary school at the start of the following school year. These requests will be granted if there is capacity at the requested grade level. Any requests received during the school year will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

    This is outlined in School Board policy JCE.

    Can my child opt out of a Dual Language Program?

    The School Board voted on May 19, 2016 to allow students to opt out of Dual Language Programs. Those who opt out of Mount Vernon Community School will be assigned to the nearest school with capacity. As John Adams has a traditional curriculum program as well as a Dual Language Program, students may opt out of the program but not the school.

    Is the grandfathering/phasing-in policy different for a Modified Calendar?

    According to School Board policies, a Modified Calendar school shall be primarily open to students living within the attendance zone. It will receive transfers from outside the attendance zone only if space is available at that grade level. Transportation is provided for students opting in and out of this program. 

    Students who have received programmatic transfers may request to return to their boundary school at the start of the following school year. These requests will be granted if there is capacity at the requested grade level. Any requests received during the school year will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

    This is outlined in School Board policy JCE and regulation JCE-R.

    Is the grandfathering/phasing-in policy different for a K-8 Program?

    According to School Board policies, a K-8 school shall be primarily open to students living within the attendance zone. It will receive transfers from outside the attendance zone only if space is available at that grade level. Students may opt in to the K-8 school that is designated for their attendance zone. Elementary students attending a K-8 school may opt out beginning at grade 6, but not before. Transportation is provided for students opting in and out of this program. 

    Students who have received programmatic transfers may request to return to their boundary school at the start of the following school year. These requests will be granted if there is capacity at the requested grade level. Any requests received during the school year will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

    This is outlined in School Board policy JCE and regulation JCE-R.

    Can my child opt in or out of a K-8 school at any grade level or just in grades 6-8?

    According to the policies voted on May 19, 2016, students may opt in to the K-8 school that is designated for their attendance zone. Elementary students attending a K-8 school may opt out beginning at grade 6, but not before.

    Will my fourth- or fifth-grade student and their siblings get transportation for the year or two years they are permitted to stay in their current school?

    Yes. According to the proposed School Board redistricting policies, students who are permitted to stay in their current school for the following school year or two years will be eligible for transportation until the end of the following year or two years when they will be transferred to their newly zoned school.

    This is outlined in School Board policy JCE and regulation JCE-R.

    What is the policy for siblings?

    Siblings have the option of attending the same school. If one sibling was assigned to a different school through a programmatic transfer, the sibling would have the option of attending that school as well. Transportation for siblings would be provided for programmatic transfers.

    Can my child opt-out of a designated educational program?

    A student who does not wish to follow a designated educational program - Dual Language Program, the K-8 Program (middle school grades only) or the Modified Calendar Program - in their assigned neighborhood school, may opt out of the program. They will be assigned to the nearest school with capacity.

    Is there an option to opt in or out of schools with other kinds of exemplary school programs such as CETA or Core Knowledge?

    According to the School Board redistricting policies voted on May 19, 2016, opt-in or opt-out options include designated educational programs only, as stated in policy JC and regulation JC-R. These are defined as the Dual Language Program, the K-8 Program and the Modified Calendar Program.

    What happens if my boundary school is full even after redistricting?

    According to the School Board redistricting policies voted on May 19, 2016, ACPS may place a student in a school other than their assigned zoned school if a school is full. Siblings of current students who live in the school attendance zone will be allowed to enroll in their neighborhood school even if class size caps are exceeded.

    This is set out in School Board policy JCD and regulation JC-R/JCD-R.

    Are there exceptions for military families?

    Yes. Children of military service personnel may choose to be placed in schools previously attended by the student prior to a change of station or in their current neighborhood school even if class size caps are exceeded. Transportation will be provided.

    This is set out in School Board policy JCD and regulation JCD-R.

    What happens if there are more student applications for a programmatic transfer to a designated education program (Dual Language, K-8 or Modified Calendar) than there are places for that program?

    According to the School Board redistricting policies voted on May 19, 2016, in the event that there are fewer spaces than transfer applicants for a specific program, a lottery will be held to determine which students are able to transfer. Lotteries will only be held for grade-level openings.

    The policy regarding lotteries is outlined in School Board policy JC and regulation JC-R/JCD-R

    Will my child get transportation to a school into which they have opted in?

    According to the School Board redistricting policies voted on May 19, 2016, if a child is transferred to a school via a capacity transfer or programmatic transfer (Dual Language, K-8, and Modified Calendar), transportation to and from the school will be provided.

    Transportation will not be provided for any student who is transferred for a reason other than a programmatic transfer, such as an administrative transfer.

    Transportation for students who transfer is covered by School Board policy JC.

    Can my child request to join a designated educational program (Dual Language, K-8 or Modified Calendar) at any grade level?

    According to the School Board redistricting policies voted on May 19, 2016, students may opt into the Modified Calendar or K-8 programs at any time. For the Dual Language Program, it is expected that most students will start at kindergarten, given the sequential nature of the program. Students requesting entry during grades 2-5 will be reviewed on a case by case basis.  

    This is set out in School Board policy JC.

    Can my child stay in their current school after redistricting if they were transferred into their current school via administrative transfer before redistricting?

    According to School Board policies voted on May 19, 2016, students with previously approved administrative transfers will be allowed remain at their current school, but they do have the option to attend their zoned school.

    Can my child stay in their current school after redistricting if they were transferred into their current school via capacity transfer (Modified open Enrollment) before redistricting?

    According to School Board policies, students who are currently attending a school other than their boundary school due to a capacity reassignment, and are not a fourth-or fifth-grade student will attend their newly zoned boundary school.

    What happens if our family moves to a new attendance zone within ACPS after the 2017 school year begins?

    According to the School Board redistricting policies, a student who moves from one ACPS attendance zone into another ACPS attendance zone during the fourth quarter of the school year for grades K-11 and second quarter for twelfth-grade students will have the option of staying in the original school for the remainder of that school year only. After that, they will be required to move to their new school. Transportation will not be provided if they choose to remain in their original school.

    This is set out in School Board policy JC.

    Will redistricting affect class sizes?

    The process of redistricting does not intend to affect class sizes. Elementary class sizes are capped at 22 students for Kindergarten, 24 students for grades one and two and 26 students for grades 3-5. These caps may be exceeded slightly under special conditions listed in School Board regulation IHB-R.

    The Superintendent may propose limits for the enrollment of each school in order to keep schools and individual classes at or under capacity to the extent possible. The Superintendent may also establish caps for the size of individual schools.

    The policies regarding class sizes are covered in School Board policy IHB and School Board regulation IHB-R.

    Will my child be redistricted if they have a disability? 

    In accordance with the Administrative Code of Virginia, IEP teams will determine placement for students with disabilities. Students enrolled in a citywide Specialized Instruction program resulting from IEP Team placement are not affected by the JCE redistricting policy.

    Glossary of policy terms

    Designated educational program

    The School Board policies define designated educational programs in ACPS as the Dual Language Program, the K-8 Program and the Modified Calendar Program. This does not include exemplary school programs such as CETA or Core Knowledge.

    Grandfathering-in/phasing-in

    Grandfathering-in or phasing-in is the terminology used to describe how long a student can remain at their existing school before they have to move to their newly redistricted school.

    A transfer

    There are different types of transfers. These include programmatic transfers, parent/guardian-requested administrative transfers and placement consideration for military children.

    Administrative transfer

    The School Board policies define a parent/guardian administrative transfer as: the movement of a student from one school to another, based on a parent/guardian request and designated administrator approval that a student would benefit from a change in educational settings due to safety, health, or a temporary housing change. Administrative transfers are approved by the Superintendent or authorized designee. Transportation is not provided for parent/guardian-requested administrative transfers.

    Administrative transfers are different from programmatic transfers and placement consideration for military children. 

    Programmatic transfer

    Programmatic transfers are designated educational programs (Dual Language, K-8, Modified Calendar). Designated educational programs in ACPS are the Dual Language Program, the K-8 Program and the Modified Calendar Program.

    Modified Open Enrollment

    These transfers are made due to specific grade-levels reaching capacity at the student’s boundary school. The School Board establishes a modified open enrollment policy which is set out by proposed policy JCD

    Boundary school

    A boundary school is the school a student is designated to attend according to their residency address and the ACPS School Board approved school boundaries.

    Current school

    The current school is the school a student(s) is currently enrolled in as of September 30, 2017, unless otherwise indicated. 

    Communications

    How is Alexandria City Public Schools going to communicate about the process of redistricting?

    ACPS and the School Board aim to ensure that the process surrounding the change of school boundaries, the timeline, activities and decision-making is clear and transparent.

    ACPS has set up an email distribution list specifically so that community members can sign up to receive updates about the redistricting process and reminders of meeting times.

    ACPS also has a comments and questions form. Questions will be responded to within two business days.

    You can also leave a message on the hotline. The hotline is checked daily and calls will be returned within two business days. The hotline number is: 703-619-8408.

    Where can I get regular news and updates?

    ACPS and the School Board aim to ensure that the process surrounding the change of school boundaries, the timeline, activities and decision-making is clear and transparent. ACPS has a page where news and updates regarding redistricting are posted. 

    News and updates are also posted on ACPS Express. 

    Where can I find a summary of the process so far and learn how to get involved?

    Please view the redistricting page on the website for updates, links to places to leave questions and comments, get email updates and an overview of the process and timeline.