Marlene Reed, whose first grader attends Owens Road Elementary School, was shivearing in the air conditioned and crowded auditorium while a Prince George's County school official outlined recommendations for school closures.
She and 50 others from the Glassmanor area in Southern Prince George's County last week had piled into a chartered bus and ridden to Upper Marboro to "hear first hand what we couldn't believe."
Their Owens Road Elementary School, they had learned, was on the school superintendent's "hit list" and was being targeted for closure.
The parents had thought their problems were ended when their own school closure task force recommended that none of the schools in their largely black residential area should be closed.
Now they found themselves back in the midst of a battle with a group of parents from a predominently white neighborhood eight miles away: should the school system close Ownes Road Elementary or an elementary school from the other area?
"I'm cold, but I'm not going until we get a chance to tell them how we feel," said Mrs. Reed, an employee of Blue Cross, who lives a block away from the school.
She and other parents, like Rogers Davis, the president of the Owens Road Elementary PTA, believe the Owens Road school closure is "politically and racially motivated."
Davis said that because of an attempt by the superintendent to satiffy parents in the largely white Fort Foote area who want their children to attend schools closer to home, "We are to see a black area torn asunder."
If the Owens Road Elementary School were closed, the Fort Foote parents from the Tor Bryan and Riverbend Estates areas would have their way. Their children would no longer be bused eight miles to school.
If they get their way, "285 children - who are mostly black - will have to be bused longer distances than before to five different schools, so 150 children - who are mostly white - can be returned to an integrated community," said Marvin Gay, a Glassmanor parent.
Parents from Tor Bryan and the Fort Foote area deny they are "antibusing."
"We just want our children to attend schools closer to home," said William Quade, whose three children are bused to Owens Road Elementary School.
"The School Board made a mistake in its projections for our community's growth," he said. "They projected that Riverbend Estates and Tor Bryan would be white so they decided to bus us - This was before the houses were built." As it turned out, these areas became integrated - They are now between 30 and 40 per cent black - and nullified the reason for busing, Quade and other parents said.
The parents from Tor Bryan and Fort Foote have been battling the busing of their children for four years, school officials said, seeking boundary changes and school closings in an effort to have their children attend school in their own neighborhood.
"We shouldn't have even come under the study (for school closure) because the board's criteria is to study a school for closure if it is 80 per cent or less utilized," said Ronald Green, a Glassmanor resident. School officials list Owens Road as 87 per cent utilized.
The Glassmanor area was largeted for study six weeks after other county task forces had begun their studies as the result of a request from the Tor Bryan and Riverbend Estates parents.
Glassmanor area parents, who objected because they believed their area did not merit analysis, proceeded with the study anyway and found that none of their schools should be closed.
At last Thursday's County School Board meeting they had their first chance to voice their concerns about country school Supt, Edward J. Feeney's move to bypass their recommendation.
Feeney included Owens Road Elementary on his list of 12 schools targeted for closure because its closing would save the county $91,496 and fill a number of empty classroom seats, he said in a statement to the board.
Charles O. Wendorf, director of pupil planning for the county schools, said that the decision to close Owens Road Elementary was made largely to reduce costs, since 96 per cent of the students attending Owens Road are bused. He said the decision was made despite the fact that three are far fewer empty classroom seasts in the Glassmanor school area that includes Owens Road.
The School Board is scheduled to make a final decision concerning which schools should be closed by the end of April.