Alexandria parents who have followed proposals to consolidate ninth and 10th grade schools in the city since the early 1970s may find the issure still around, with no condolidated school, in the early 1980s.
The Alexandria debate over school condolidation is an example of what can happen "when you have an educational group withe one set of feelings and a political group with another set of feelings," according to Alison May, vice chairmen of the Alexandria School Board.
The school board was expected to act last night on a resolution that would keep both George Washington and Francis Hammond high schools as separate ninth and 10th grade facilities until the end of the 1979-80 school year - or until school enrollment stablizes and new academic requirements suggest a different decision.
During that three-year period, a City Council election will be held and all nine school board members will come up for reappointment. School board members are appointed by the City Council.
Despite the continuing debate over consolidation, some Council members interviewed yesterday said they dont' believe another three years will elapse before the issue is resolved.
City Councilman Robert L. Calhoun said the feeling now "is to let the subject alone at least for awhile," adding that that may be about a year.
"There's a certain exhaustion that everyone has for the subject," Calhoun said.
Councilman Donald C. Casey noted that "if it's the school board's basic game plan to wait until there's another City Council (in office), we won't stand for that, even if we have to replace every one of them." He predicted that something will be done "by the next budget year," the year starting July 1, 1978.
The consolidation problem goes back to the early 1970s, when the school board wanted to keep Hammond and GW seperate, but was faced with declining enrollments at the schools and the deterioration of the George Washington building. Consultants predicted enrollments would continue to drop. The school board was urged by city officials to look at alternatives several years ago, according to school board chairman Carlyle Ring Jr.
The school board drafted a plan to consolidate the two schools at Chinquapin Park, situated next to the city's only 11th and 12th grade school, T.C. Williams, on King Street. The site was proposed as "neutral ground" between Hammond's predominantly white community in the west end of Alexandria and George Washington, which is in the east central part of the city and has strong ties to the black community.
Finally, in April 1976, the City Council voted for the Chinquapin consolidation proposal. But last summer, the city's planning commission rejected the Chinquapin site for the school consolidation, sending the issue back to the City Council. School board chairman Ring said that the planning commission "took about three hours of study" to reject what it had taken the school board years to review.
By the time the matter came back to the Council for endorsement or rejection, the current City Council had been elected, one that has a majority opposed to the Chinquapin site.
Last December, the City Council officially rejected the Chinquapin plan and passed a resolution giving the school board two options: consolidate at the George Washington building or take up to three years to restudy the issue, during which time the two schools could remain in operation.
The school board chose the three-year option. A recent reanalysis of the school system showed that the city's 13,300 school enrollment may be stabilizing, and that predictions made several years ago about a continuing enrollment decline may be inaccurate.
Ring and other city officials said that after a decision is made about where to consolidate, if consolidation is the eventual decision, then it may take another three years to get a facility renovated or built.
Councilman Casey, who proposed the consolidation at GW or restudy resolution the Council passed last December, said yesterday that his intent was that students would be in a new or renovated building within about three years. He said he had not intended for the school board to postpone a consolidation decision for the entire three years.
Casey said he believes the answer is the consolidate at a renovated George Washington. He is one of four current City Council members who live in the vicinity of George Washington.
That solution, Casey said, would be acceptable to the groups who oppose the Chinquapin site for consolidation - conservatives, conservationists, and some blacks.