The Arlington County School Board decided this week to close two of the county's six junior high schools by September, 1978 and set June 28 as the tentative date to decide which two schools should close.
A public hearing on the school closing issue is expected to be scheduled after May 28, when Arlington School Superintendent Larry Cuban recommends which of the six schools should be closed.
As recently as a month ago, the board had been talking about a December decision to close only one junior high in 1978. The board began discussing the closing of two schools two weeks ago when updated enerollment projection showed a more severe drop in pupul population than previously estimated.
Discussing the matter last week, board members indicated they might not choose the schools to close until December. But Monday they decided to pinpoint those schools before July 1.
"We have collected a great deal of information about the schools in the past few months," said school board chairman Diane Henderson. "If we have the recommendations before us y May 23, we ought to be able to make a decision before July 1.
"We're already behind in making a decision," she added. "In December we said we would have a decision by April. We really don't think we're going to need much more information than we have, so we should not delay any longer."
The board's decision to choose the schools in June angered some Arlington parents. Ingrid Planert, a parent who has children in a junior high school that had been considered for closing, said "many people have told me they have the impression that the board is pushing up its decision because it doesn't want a school closing issue alive" when elections come up in November for one seat on the Arlington County Board. Mrs. Planert currently a candidate for appointment to the school board.
She noted that county board member Walkter L. Frankland won his seat in 1975 partly by criticizing school board policies and practices.
"That's not our reasoning for deciding to make a decision now rather than later," Henderson said. "Our major concern is to set aside the rest of this year for planning the transfer of te ninth grade into the high schools and developing new programs for the seventh and eighth grade intermediate schools. It's such a big move we will need all the time we have for planning."
The board decided in December to move the ninth grade from the junior high schools where they are now located into the high schools to supplement declining pupil enrollments in the high schools and create intermediate school programs for the seventh and eighth graders.
At the same time, the board decided to close a junior high school since taking the ninth graders out would decrease intermediate school enrollments below the 500 pupil quota for each intermediate school.
The new enrollment projections showed that keeping five intermediate schools open would leave fewer than 500 pupils in most of them. The projections showed a total of 2,369 seventh and eigth grade pupils in 1978, a drop of 353 pupils from September, 1977.
According to these projections and school staff figures, keeping six schools open in 1978 would leave about 395 pupils in each, keeping five schools open would leave 474 pupils in each and keeping four schools open would 592 pupils in each.
Cuban had recommended Stratford Junior High School at 1400 N. Vacation Lane as the school to close, but the new enrollement data indicates that all the junior highs will be looked at again for possible closing.
"We're starting from square one," Henderson said. "That's not saying that we won't choose the same candidates as we did before, but we are looking at the overall picture once more."