There are huge issues of equity and equality in our schools in Prince William County. It is the job of the school administration, school board and county council supervisors to work to remedy this situation for all students by allocating our tax money in the school budget and plan. improvement to start correcting these differences now.
According to the Center for Public Education, “Equality in education is achieved when students are all treated the same and have access to similar resources. Equity is achieved when all students are given the resources they need to graduate and prepare for success after high school. This means that schools must provide disadvantaged students with more resources in order to help all students to thrive.
Based on these definitions, the Prince William County School Division is not achieving equity or equality for all high school students. In particular, students at Woodbridge Senior, Gar-Field, and Stonewall Jackson High Schools do not have a fair chance to succeed because students do not have access to the same quality of facilities as students in older high schools. recent county. .
Although the school board has planned two new turf fields at Woodbridge Senior and Stonewall Jackson High Schools, fundamental issues persist with infrastructure and a lack of resources, hampering student success in school, on the terrain and beyond.
Further, these problems are exacerbated when examining the demographics of students attending newer high schools compared to those in older schools. There are many more English learners and economically disadvantaged students as well as students of color attending older schools with dilapidated and dilapidated buildings and classrooms, compounding equity issues. in the county.
Instead, these students should be provided with at a minimum the same resources and facilities so that they have the same chances for success in their studies and extracurricular activities as students in the more recent high schools in the county.
For example, the school board removed the specialty program at Woodbridge High School without community consent in 2016 and did not replace it with another program that allows students to enrich their education. This decision by the school administration and the school board limited the choices of students and communities in terms of curriculum at the school in their neighborhood.
The building structures at Woodbridge Senior, Gar Field, and Stonewall Jackson High Schools do not have windows that let in natural light. This, in itself, is not a matter of fairness unless you take into consideration that all of the newer high schools were built on purpose with an overabundance of windows. In fact, officials from Prince William School Division have cited research to support and promote the decision to have additional windows at Colgan High School, touting that natural light is best for student learning. If we want optimal learning environments for all students, old high school buildings must also have windows that provide natural light.
Both Woodbridge Senior and Gar Field High Schools have only one full court in their gymnasiums for indoor sports and play, compared to the three full courts that all other high schools have in the county. While the community of Woodbridge is grateful that there is money in the budget for a proposed auxiliary gymnasium, adding a full field does not make school facilities fair unless there is have three complete lots built for use.
These are just a few examples of inequity and inequality between schools that need to be addressed in the school budget and the capital improvement plan. And it must start in this new fiscal year. Now is the time for the school administration, school board and supervisory board to act to restore equity and educational opportunities for all in Prince William County.
Lake Ridge resident Kate Olson-Flynn, Ph.D., has spent more than two decades working in public education, first as an elementary school teacher and as a professor at various universities across the country. She is an adjunct professor and academic supervisor at the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University. She has devoted most of her work to issues of equity and access to education and to improving teaching practices for culturally and linguistically diverse students.