WP: Pr. William redraws new high school’s boundaries after DOJ inquiry

From Washington Post

By Moriah Balingit

Prince William County officials have redrawn proposed attendance boundaries for its new high school after the initial plan prompted concerns and an inquiry from the U.S. Department of Justice because of the number of minority students slated to be sent to the high school.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division began an inquiry last spring in response to an unspecified complaint. It determined that the way the original boundaries were drawn would have sent too few minorities to the school.

The school, which is under construction and set to open in 2016, is on Dumfries Road near Hoadly Road in Manassas.

Under the original plan, the school would have had a minority representation of about 37 percent, far lower than minority attendance at surrounding county high schools. Under the new proposal, released this week, the projected student body would be about 45 percent minority.

County schools spokesman Phil Kavits said the Justice Department has told school officials that it would not pursue legal action if the board adopted the new plan, signaling its endorsement of it.

An information session on the new boundaries is scheduled to be held in Hylton High School’s auditorium at 7 p.m. Oct. 28. The school board is scheduled to vote on the proposal at its Nov. 18 meeting.

The district’s 12th high school also has been controversial because it will be the only one that will have an indoor pool. It will also have a theater and be home to the school system’s arts program.

In letters to the school system, the Justice Department also expressed concern about the irregular nature of the boundaries, which included “islands” and appeared to exclude some students from the new school even if it would have been the closest school to their homes.

In a Sept. 4 letter, Justice Department attorney Kelly D. Gardner said that the department’s “findings raise significant concerns regarding the boundary proposal’s compliance with the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974.”

The Justice Department office handling the matter did not respond to requests for comment.