Hamm Walkers

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Dear Members of the Arlington County School Board,

We are writing as concerned Arlington residents in strong opposition to the Arlington Public Schools (APS) proposal to drastically change the boundary of Dorothy Hamm Middle School. In particular, this proposed change will result in dozens of students who currently walk to Hamm to be bussed to Williamsburg MS instead. This proposal is being rushed through an approval process in the summer/early fall without the benefit of proper input from those who will be most impacted by the change. Middle schoolers from a great many households located within a few short blocks of Hamm will now be forced to take a bus to a school 3 miles away. Hamm's walker rate would decline to 40% under this proposal from its current 55%.

Public and private sector health experts have consistently found that walking to school is far more beneficial to students than being bussed. Not only is walking a cardio activity at a time of an obesity epidemic, it also provides busy students additional, healthful rest as they avoid having to wake up earlier to catch the bus. Moreover, fewer school buses clogging our streets reduces harmful pollution and carbon dioxide emissions affecting our neighborhoods and our planet. APS has explicitly acknowledged that its proposal will increase congestion on streets to accommodate staging and stacking of additional buses.

It is also in students' interests to keep younger students with their classmates as they move through the school system together. The Taylor-Hamm-Yorktown pyramid keeps K-8 students together while the APS proposal would split Taylor Elementary schoolers from their classmates as they enter middle school. This at a time when they are less socially developed than the years of the middle school-high school transition. A split as students enter 9th grade is preferable to a split as they enter 6th.

Finally, APS has not adequately considered alternatives to this plan that could maximize walkability at Hamm and other schools while right-sizing student counts at Gunston and Williamsburg.

For all of these reasons, we urge you to instruct the Administration to reject the Hamm boundary proposal, allowing APS to receive needed community input and consider a wider range of options.

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