Arlington's declining student enrollment has forced two elementary schools to close, prompted a transfer of the ninth qrade into the high schools to fill classes there, and caused reorganizations of educational programs to make more efficient use of excess school space.
Now the rapid decline of Arlington pupils - from 26,160 to 19,210 within 10 years - is requiring the school board to close one the county's seven junior high schools.
The school board is studying three junior highs for possbile closing - Kenmore, Swanson and Stratford. The board expects to decide April 7 which school it willclose in September, 1978.
The three junior high schools were chosen from a list of five to be further considered for possible closing. The board agreed in December to close one junior high school when the ninth grade is moved into the county's four high schoold in 1978.
Gunston and Williamsburg junior high schools were dropped as closing candidates last week partly because their closing would require numerous student transfers in several school districts, and partly because the locations of the schools at the northern and southern ends of the county northern and southern ends of the county are not near community resources, preventing them from being used for other school programs. Gunston is expected to increase its student enrollment during the next five years than any other junior high school in Arlington.
School superintendent Larry Cuban recommended that only Stratford and Swanson junior high schools be considered for closing, saying there is little reason to study Kenmore further "unless the board puts high value on its potential to generate revenue."
Board chairman Diane Henderson said Kenmore would continue to be studied for closing until school staff offered "more specific information on its revenue-qenerating potential."
Although Cuban noted that "there is no clear line of reasoning" that leads to the closing of a particular school, he listed several major factors that are being considered in choosing a school to close. One is the future placement of intermediate schools throughout Arlington. The county now has seven junior high schools, including the Hoffman-Boston alternative school program, but the school board foresees "a time in the near future when we will only need four," said board member Margaret Whipple. Cuban said the impact of the proposed 1-66 highway and Metro stations in Arlington is unclear, but that schools should be kept in areas likely to have stable or growing school populations as indicated by present trends.
Other considerations are whether the school to be closed would be suitable for other educational programs, whether school redistricting required by a closing would leave remaining school districts well-balanced and following natural boundaries in the county, and whether many capital improvements would be necessary to keep a school in operation.
The board is striking for a minimum enrollment of 500 in each of the junior high schools (which will become seventh and eighth grade transfer). Arlinton junior high principals have determined that a range of at least 500 to 700 pupils is needed to maintain quality educational programs.
The board expects much opposition to the school consolidations, a relatively new phenomenon for Arlington County. More than 50 anxious parents attented last Tuesday's board meeting to hear discussion on the closing issue. Some 10 parents, most of whom represented elementary schools whose pupils would attend Stratford junior high at 4100 N. Vacation Lane, spoke out against the closing studies. More are expected to show up at a public hearing on the issue March 29 at the Arlington Education Center.
"I'm making a plea for mercy," said Jackie Doll, a resident of Lyon Village who has one son attending Page Elementary School. "Don't close Stratford. We are trying to keep a neighborhood intact, but you have already decided to close our elementary school. We feel our area if being pulled apart bit by bit.
Stratford, however, appears to be a strong candidate for closure.
Cuban said closing Stratford, the oldest and one of the smallest junior high schools in Arlington with a projected population of about 381 in September, would require few student transfers. The Stratford area, in the older, central section of Arlington, probably will continue to lose students, he said. Moreover, iots convenient location would serve well for other school programs.
But Cuban added that Stratford also serves a small geographical area and only 26 per cent of its students are bussed in. If 1-66 is built, and considered a natural boundary in the school system, Stratford may be a well-situated junior high to have north of the highway.
Closing Swanson, Cuban continued, also would required few student shifts, since it is one of this smallest junior highs in the county. Located at 2800 Washington Boulevard, it is near community resources and could be used for other school programs. Its central air conditioning system would allow school programs to operate there year round. Swanson's location, very near the 1-66 right of way, may be the least desirable place for an intermediate school if the highway is built, the superintendent said.
Citing reasons to keep Swanson open, Cuban noted that the school's enrollment is expected to increase, and that almost no students are bussed to the school, which he described as "a real neighborhood school."
Kenmore Junior High, at the western edge of the county, is situated on a large site at 200 South Carlin Spring ROad near several major roads. If Kenmore were closed, school staff believes it would become an attrative piece of real estate. Cuban said if Kenmore closed, remaining school boundaries could be drawn to keep their junior high schools in the center of their attendance areas.
He noted that many students would have to be transferred if Kenmore closed, that the Kenmore area's pupil population is expected to stay stable, that community use of Kenmore is fairly heavy, and that it is not a good location for other school programs.