For the second time in three years, Page Elementary School in Arlington is facing the possibility that it will be closed, but this time the neighborhoods surrounding the school seem to be meeting the threat with disappointed resignation rather than concentrated resistance.
Arlington school Supt. Larry Cuban last week recommended that Page be closed in September and its pupils sent to Woodmont, Glebe and Jackson Elementary Schools. At a school board meeting tonight, the superintendent is expected to recommend specific school district boundary changes for the redistribution of pupils. The board is scheduled to vote Feb. 3 on whether to close the 23-year-old school at 1501 N Lincoln St.
The school board also considered Page for closing in 1973.
"We put together a tightly organized fight at that time to save the school," recalled Judy Proctor, a Cherrydale resident and member of the Page PTA.
"We did save it then, but we knew it was only a reprieve; that the closing would come sometime. Parents hate to see the school close now, but they also hate to see it grow so small that facilities and teachers are lost."
Page, a "traditional" school with closed classrooms, lost a full-time librarian this year and previously lost an elementary level counselor. The 219 students in grade one through six at Page are taught in "combination" classes, where two grade levels are taught in one class. There is one class combining grades one and two, three classes combining grades three and four, and three classes combining grades five and six.
"I believe there is a serious loss in the quality of education when a school becomes so small that support staff is lost and children with a wide range of abilities are taught in one group," said a Lyon village resident with three children at Page who declined to be quoted by name. "If Page doesn't close, more services will be cut and the school just won't be providing a quality education."
Closing Page would not only represent the loss of a neighborhood school to the Lyon Village, Cherrydale and Ballston communities the school serves, but also the continuing urbanization of a once solidly suburban area.
"Everyone in Arlington is running scared," said Jackie Doll of 1501 N. Hartford St. "I-66 is hovering over us on one side and huge high-rises are threatening on the other. Losing Page is like watching another step in the suburban turning into a downtown core."
"I've lived in Lyon Village 13 years, and I wouldn't trade communities for anything," Mrs. Doll continued. "But I can see the neighborhood lose more residential qualities without Page. Younger families may be even less likely to move in, with the homes already so expensive. Despite the loss, most people realize there is little choice with fewer school age children and a lot less available money to spend."
Arlington's school population has declined from 26,160 to 19,120 in the past 10 years. Page's student population is below the school board quota of 234 students in grade levels one through six.
Mr. and Mrs. William MacDonald of 1411 N. Hartford St. bought their Lyon Village home in August. One of the reasons they chose Lyon Village because they expected their three preschool children to walk to Page when they start in the next few years.
"It was quite a shock to find out that one of our main reasons for living here may soon be gone," Sharon MacDonald said. "We looked at Page before moving here; we liked it. But if the other schools are good, I would be willing to bus my children to them. For me, the quality is more important than the location."
Like many parents in Lyon Village, Mrs. MacDonald also is considering sending her children to St. Charles Catholic School on Fairfax Drive if Page is closed.
"Other young families may move somewhere else knowing no neighborhood school is near," Mrs. MacDonald continued. "Maybe people would be able to cope better with new development like Metro station, big buildings and the overwhelming way this area is changing so fast."
Other patents are arguing that Page should be kept open as an alternative to "open classroom" elementary shools. They claim that if the county can afford to maintain experimental programs like the alternative schools, a traditional approach to education also should be preserved.
The county's two alternative schools, Hoffman - Boston Junior High School and Woodlawn High School, offer opportunites for more independent and advanced study and attract students from all over the county.
Still others concerned about the possible closing cite the "disruptive relocation" of the county's only hearing center for elementary school students. The center which now has about 10 pupils with hearing disabilities has been at Page for 15 years and has integrated disabled students into the mainstream of elementary school studies. School spokesmen say if the Page stays open, the center would require sound-proofing because I-66 would pass within a block of the school if built.
"There seems to be a strong case against keeping Page open," said a Ballston resident with two children at the school. "There isn't any organized effort of parents to fight for the school this year. And besides, it's kind of difficult fighting hard realities like fewer students, less money and growing development."