Residents of two southern Prince George's County neighborhoods have employed a new weapon in an effort to stop their children from being bused to school in another community.
The residents are trying to pressure the country to close the school to which their children are being bused. They cite county guidelines that decide school closings based on student population and costs per pupil.
Employing a little used loophole in school board policy, the residents have prompted the board to create a task force to study whether the distant school should be closed.
The target of the closure is Owens Road Elementary School, which is located eight miles from the protesting Tor Bryan and Riverbend Estates communities are bused to Owens Road.
Owens Road Elementary School, which is located in Fort Foote Village, is particularly vulnerable under school board criteria because the per pupil costs are higher than normal because of the busing costs. Many of those bused are Fort Foote residents who are unable to walk because there are no sidewalks and it would be unsafe for them to walk, their parents say.
Currently, the task force studying the possible school closings is "leaning toward not closing any schools," said Otis Ducker, the task force chairman during a telephone interview yesterday.
"We are not interested in closing any schools just to get theirkids back into their neighborhoods. I pointed out to them that school closing is not a method for solving their problems."
Ducker said Owens Road should never have been studied for closure in the first place because it had 87 per cent utilization. Schools with less than 85 per cent utilization are generally considered candidates for study, he said.
One parent from Riverbend Estates, William Quade, whose three children are bused to Owens Road Elementary School, said, "The school board made a mistake in its projections for our communities' growth. They projected that Riverbend Estates and Tor Bryan would be white so they decided to bus us - This was before houses were built."
As it turned out both communities, according to Quade, were intergrated with 40 per cent of the homes occupied by blacks. "All we want to donow is have our children attend the nearest schools," Quade said.
Board member Sue V. Mills, who brought the citizens' request for the task force proposal to the board Jan. 27, said: "The issue is not busing, it is having children attend the schools closet to home."
Mills, whose position against busing is well known, said the task force came into existence because the schools in the Tor Bryan and Riverbend communities were under capacity and her constituants wanted to keep their children in their neighborhoods and were fearful their own schools would be closed as a result.
The issue is further complicated by differing interpretations of a school board resolution that prohibits the altering of existing busing patterns as established by a court-imposed busing plan, Mills said. The interpretation concerns whether the board can alter busing plans even when natural changes in black and white populations within communities take place, naturally tipping the racial balance in schools.
"Our problem is tat lousy Warrsteincke resolution," said Mills, refering to the resolution in question. She [WORD ILLEGIBLE] that the county was no longer restrainedby the court order but by the wording of the board resolution.
Neither Jesse J. Warr Jr., nor Maureen K. Steineke, authors of the resolution, could be reached for comment yesterday.