When principal Mary Pace came to Cedar Lane Elementary School in Vienna 10 years ago, she had nearly 700 students brimming out of 21 classrooms and two trailers. Today, Cedar Lane has 320 pupils, the trailers are gone and there are only 10 classrooms.
Yet despite this decline in enrollment, which is projected to drop to 220 children in 1981-82, the budget for Cedar Lane continues to go up every year.
When Cedar Lane was at its peak enrollment, each grade had at least two and sometimes three sections. Four kindergarten classes were held - two in the morning and two in the afternoon.
A cafeteria hostess supervised the busy lunch scene and each afternoon the dishwasher hummed as three fulltime kitchen staff members cleaned up after their morning cooking.
A clinic health aide was on duty four hours every day. The library was manned by two librarians Mary Pace had two full-time office workers and there was almost music in the building as the full-time music teacher gave her lessons.
This school year, the children at Cedar Lane fill only 10 classes, including one kindergarten group. There is no longer a cafeteria hostess - Cedar Lane now "satellites" its meals from the nearby Henry David Thoreau Intermediate School and the reduced kitchen staff (1 1/2) merely dishes, out the food brought over every day from Thoreau. The dishwasher is silent since paper plates are used.
The school library now has one librarian and the music teacher spends only 1 1/2 days a week at Cedar Lane. The school budget gives Mary Pace one office clerk and a visiting nurse comes once a week or less, now that the clinic health aide is gone.
The no-longer-needed classrooms serve a variety of functions: as music room, speech and reading room, library addition, and as classrooms for gifted and talented children and for those with learning disabilities. Fairfax County government electrical inspectors use one room as an office.
Principal Pace said the teachers who left Cedar Lane for a variety of reasons were not replaced. Those who remain, she added, are apprehensive about further decline in enrollment because it means some of them will be reassigned to schools in the fastgrowing communities in the western part of the county.
With all these cutbacks, and a falling enrollment, Cedar Lane's operating budget still does not shrink. In the last five years, operating costs at the Vienna school have risen $73,000. In the 1971-72 school year with a student body of 500 and a staff of 23 1/2, (down 3 1/2 from the previous year), Cedar Lane's budget was $269,269. This year with a staff of 21 and 320 pupils, the budget is $342,603.
The major increase has been in teacher's salaries, which have gone up almost $35,000 from $199,022 to $233,878 in the last five years. But despite this increase, salaries have slipped from 74 per cent of the school's budget in 1971-72 to 68 per cent in 1976-77.
A big part of the budget increase is the cost of running the school, which went from $28,922 (11 per cent of 1971-72 budget) to $45,757 (13 per cent of the current budget.)
The major factor in the rise of the school's maintenance and operating costs has been skyrocketing fuel oil prices. In 1971-72, fuel oil for Cedar Lane cost $3,096. This year, $10,345 is scheduled to be spent on heating oil. Electricity bills ($5,709 budgeted for 1976-77) went up $2,765 over the last five years.