Some were angry, some concerned and some just frustrated. They were the more than 250 parents, teachers and students who attended a tumultuous, seven-hour meeting on school closures held last week by the Prince George's County school board.
More than 100 speakers testified about the proposed closing of five schools - Whitehall, Fox Hill, Tulip Grove, Glenn Dale and Palmer Park.
Representatives of several task forces pleaded that the schools be kept open, and raised an issue that dominated the hearing: "How much meaning does our task force have when we recommend a school remain open and the superintendent asks that it close?" asked one speaker.
A Somerset Elementary School representative said:
"Was the task force formed to provide a political excuse for the superintendent to recommend school closing? Was the task force formed to gather facts with respect to local communities, or was the task force formed to order to give the appearance of public participation and thereby allow officials to tell irate citizens "we didn't select your school for closing, a committee of your peers did?'"
"This is participatory democracy," replied school board chairman Jesse J. Warr Jr. "I don't care what people say, this is the best means to have impact on the part of citizens to help make a decision."
Warr said he believes the task force process was fair and that no board member had made up his or her mind about closing any particular school.
The audience cheered as task force spokesmen explained the importance of keeping schools open. More than 100 spectators remained at 1:30 a.m. and nearly all of the 138 scheduled speakers attended the meeting at Largo Senior High School.
Sidney Galitzer charged that the closing of Somerset Elementary would mean a "substandard" education for his children. Galitzer, who lives two doors from the school and has two children attending, said his children would be bused to a school that provides a poorer quality of education.
Another parent, Mary Henegar, said the Glenn Dale school should not be closed because it provides an excellent education and has done much for handicapped children. She said her child is a deaf student at the school and was able to successfully complete the program.
Other parents, including Ted Linzey of the Palmer Park PTA, asked the school board not to close Palmer Park Elementary School because it is a community center and gives children a good education.
Debate at hearings scheduled this week was expected to center on Oxon Hill areas in southern Prince George's County. The two schools recommended for closure by Edward J. Feeney, county school superintendent, are Owens Road and Accokeek elementary schools.
Feeney recommended closing the schools after separate task forces determined that no schools in their areas should be shut down.
Owens Road Elementary, located in the Glassmanor area, has received support from parents who believe their school was chosen for closure only to suit the needs of parents from a community eight miles away who did not want their children bused to Owens road.
These parents contend that their school - Owens Road - does not meet the school closing criteria because it is nearly full. Parents say the school ranks high in the state's testing program and that the students - who are mostly black - should not be bused to five other schools.
The parents in the community eight miles away - in the Fort Foote area - want their children to attend a school closer to home since their community is integrated and they contend there is no need for busing.
The Fort Foote parents have asked the school board not to close the Accokeek school in their area. They say shutting down the school would only save $1,498.