It is inevitable that change is coming to AHS; our building is simply too much over capacity for the school board to let the situation stand for any longer. Our hallways are simply too packed, our lunch lines too long and, even though we have opened up a 14-classroom modular behind the school, our facilities too crowded. While we can’t stop change from coming, we can make this change work to our advantage. This means that our community needs to get involved – now.
Right now, the picture is grim – unless the school board decides to implement the non-boundary solutions, we are going to lose part of our community. However, while students living in neighborhoods currently being considered under the redistricting plans will lose the immense opportunities they would have at AHS, the possibilities seem even worse for those left behind.
If certain neighborhoods are moved, most of the activities at AHS would suffer greatly – AHS PTSA President Emily Slough collected data from each team, club and school organization’s rosters and mapped out school participation. Her results are striking – 47% of our girls lacrosse team would be taken out, 42% of our field hockey players removed, 43% of The A-Blast’s staff would be lost and countless other groups would be heavily affected. While some might argue that this would open up room for other students to participate, many of our activities, such as freshman sports, might not be able to recruit enough players to form teams and the caliber of our programs may decline.
Additionally, while our program’s participants come from all over Annandale’s area, the truth is that much of our parent-involvement comes from the neighborhoods that the school board is considering moving. Without this support structure, programs may find it harder to fund themselves and to maintain the tradition of excellence that defines everything we do at AHS.
As of this moment, the school board has not made any decisions – meaning that every member of our community has the power, and the time, to make his or her voice heard.
No matter if you live on the periphery of AHS’s boundary or a block away from the school, you’re going to feel these changes – not only are some of the boundary options capable of fundamentally altering the character of our school, but the students who are moved will lose the chance to learn the unique things AHS has to offer.
What many parents, especially those of younger children who have not personally experienced AHS, may not understand is that the AHS we have today is a very different school from what it was a decade ago. Principal John Ponton and his administrative team have worked hard to make AHS as safe as possible and met success. During my four years at AHS, I have never had a single moment in which I felt uncomfortable or unsafe – any vague rumors you might hear about gangs and violence at AHS simply do not apply to the school anymore.
And, while many are loathe to admit it, some fear our diversity. Going to AHS certainly has been an eye-opening experience; while I was born and raised right here in Annandale, I now know people from every part of the world, each of whom brings a different perspective to the table. Students at AHS may not always get along, but we’ve learned one of life’s most important lessons – we do not judge each other based on our accents, wealth, or the color of our skin, but on the people we truly are.
You cannot get this same mix of cultures, languages and academic excellence anywhere else. While other schools nearby might look better on paper, going to AHS has better prepared me for the ever-more diverse and interconnected world we’ll face after graduation.
Whether or not you are rich or poor, African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic or Asian, this change applies to you. No matter which changes you believe should be implemented or whether you want to stay within AHS’s boundaries, you need to get involved. The most important thing for us to do is to ensure that the school board gives all of the options a fair and detailed look, so that a solution can be reached that preserves the unique character of the school and hears the voices of our community.