The Fairfax County School Board last week decided to build a new Reston elementary school next to a right-of-way with high voltage electric lines, but Reston parents opposed to the location plan to continue efforts to have the school built elsewhere.
Raymond J. Sander, leader of the parents, said he is "exploring litigational possibilities" with two law firms in an effort to relocate the scholl. The group of about 15 parents charges that electrical energy from two high-voltage lines in the right-of-way could cause biological harm to children attending the new Reston 6 elementary school.
"Very frankly, we, as a handful of Reston parents are not going to be able to afford an expensive legal battle against the schools and Vepco (Virginia Electric and Power Co.)," Sander said. "But if the fees turn out to be less than we think now, we'll make another stab at it (moving the school.)"
The school board earlier had postponed for a week its decision to keep the school on a 13-acre site next to Vepco's right-of-way off Cross School Road in Reston so that school system staff members could investigate the charges of electrical danger.
The board voted unanimously last week to keep the school near the right-of-way after hearing school construction director Alton C. Hlavin report that the electrical force from two high-voltage lines would be too weak to cause bodily harm.
Hlavin said the strength of the electromagnetic field surrounding the 230,000-volt line and the 115,000-volt line suspended about 100 feet above the right-of-way near the school site "is within extremely conservative recommendations" of the minimum electrical force above which people should not be continuously exposed.
He said the conservative recommendations were made by Dr. Andrew A. Marino, a biophysicist at the Veterans Administration in Syracuse, N.Y., who researches biological effects of electromagnetic fields. Marino's research had been quoted by Reston parents who wanted the school moved.
"The health and safety factors are something that still haven't been really explored, despite what the school system interprets as safe or not," Sander said. "I would call the schools' last-minute efforts at investigating possible problems rather flim-flam."
Other Reston parents and some school officials have charged that the parents led by Sander are opposed to the site not because of electrical danger but because they want the new school located closer to their homes.
In other matters last week, the school board decided that all Fairfax students will have to meet basic, minimum requirements that show competency in reading, writing and arithmetic before graduating.
THe board adopted a list of 83 requirements that high school students will have to meet before receiving a high school diploma. They include items like reading a charge account statement, filling out a tax form, counting correct change from $10 and knowing where to get information on job openings.
The board action is part of a national trend toward setting requirements that high school students prove they can read, write and count before they are awarded diplomats.
The Virginia State Board of Education in 1976 set requirements that must be met before a student cna graduate. Ninth graders this year will be the first class affected by the state regulation. The requirements, called minimum competencies by school officials, are intended to identify pupils who are already academically unsuccessful and to teach them basic skills and knowledge.
The board will not decide how to implement the requirements for at least six weeks, until staff students have been completed.
Compulsory attendance by teachers at parent-teacher organization meetings also was endorsed by the Board. The practise is disliked by the Fairfax Education Association, which represents most Fairfax teachers.
"We think Fairfax teachers are dedicated already," said Victor Cornacchione, FEA president. "We think communications between parents and teachers could be enhanced by making attendance at PTA meetings voluntary, and we are going to pursue getting this practice of required attendance turned around."
School officials said the attendance matter was brought up by the FEA last winter when the organization wanted school board policy to prevent principals from requiring attendance.