School capacity issues in Arlington will not affect the district’s willingness to educate Lakeland’s children, according to Arlington school superintendent Tammy Mason.
The high school has room, the crowded middle school can adapt, and Lakeland’s parents will always have a voice in their children’s education in Arlington.
Arlington High School has a capacity of just under 2,400 students and currently has just a little over 2,000 enrolled, including hundreds of non-resident students, she said.
Her district has already expressed an interest in indefinitely extending the high school agreement.
Arlington High is big, and a smaller student population would mean fewer opportunities for all the kids there, Mason said. If Lakeland students withdrew to attend in their own district, the Arlington district would have to make tough choices about reducing academic and extracurricular activities. That could mean fewer advanced placement (AP) classes and dual enrollments, as well as elimination of more specialized classes.
The middle school’s capacity has always been a concern, she said.With or without Lakeland students, that facility will be a focus of Arlington’s capital improvement discussions in January.
Even after the seven-year agreement expires, Mason firmly believes Arlington can and will support Lakeland’s middle-schoolers if needed. It would ultimately be a school board decision, she said, “But I certainly don’t see any case that any member would not do what we needed to do to provide for Lakeland students.”
Some of Lakeland’s school and city leaders have pointed to “local control” as a reason they want to build Lakeland Prep. There are concerns that parents would not have a voice in Arlington.
Mason said Lakeland parents are only excluded from is voting on school board members. In all other matters, Lakeland and Arlington parents have equal power in talking with teachers, the PTA, principals and school board members. Lakeland parents are welcome to speak at school board meetings during the section for public comments, she said.
In short, she believes Arlington will remain supportive.
“From Arlington’s standpoint, we are not looking at it as an ‘us vs. them’ at all,” she said. “This is certainly their decision to make, and whatever decision they make, we will then plan accordingly.”