The Arlington County School Board last week rejected an offer by the federal government for a 25-year lease on the Fort Myer Elementary School and decided to continue negotiations to renew the present lease for another year.
The board was notified in November that the owner of the building, the U.S. Office of Education, wanted to terminate the lease at least by Sept. 1. The board then requested an extension of the current school arrangement until June 30, 1979.
Superintendent Larry Cuban announced at the Jan. 19 regular meeting that the Office of Education had responded to the board offer with two options for the school building. In one the Department of Health, Education and Welfare would continue with negotiations to find a new owner for the building with the limitation that the new owner or tenant could not have control of the building until June 30, 1979. The second option was a 25-year lease to the board for the building.
Although the building is owned by HEW, it is staffed and maintained by the county. It is on land owned by the Army at Fort Myer.
If the lease for the school is not extended, Cuban said the current Fort Myer student body would be consolidated with Key, Long Branch and Henry schools. That consolidation could have a major impact on the Key school since many of the students reassigned there would have a native language other than English and add to the school's already large proportion of these students, Cuban said.
Cuban suggested the board could consider consolidating Fort Myer and its adjacent schools as part of any move needed in the future to reduce the number of school in the county to accommodate an enrollment decline. He emphasized, however, that the Fort Myer school was well above the 234-student minimum required by the board to continue operating a school.
Usually in the fall the board conducts a consolidation review of school facilities in Arlington County. During last fall's review the Fort Myer school was considered a possible candidate for consolidation since it was housed in a building not owned by the county, but the board decided at the time not to consolidate.
"We would be out of our minds to bind ourselves to a 25-year lease. We can't guarantee any school for 25 years," board member Diane Henderson said.
Thomas Penn, board chairman, suggested the board seek a two-year lease, but Henderson questioned whether the board could guarantee the school for even two years with the current review of school facilities upcoming.
The board decided to accept Cuban's recommendation to seek the one-year extension with the option that it could reconsider the decision when planning for the fall. Supporting the recommendation were Henderson and Ann Broder. William Barton, serving at his first meeting since being appointed to the board last week, abstained, and Mary Margaret Whipple was absent.
In other action the board appointed Gail Nuckols, Eleanor Monroe, Paul Nassetta and Dan Boden to serve on the committee working to develop a state-mandated, six-year plan of instruction. It also established task force of students, parents and teachers to recommend standards for student conduct that must be in use by 1980, according to state law. Members for the committee will be appointed in future meetings.
The board also approved a new full-time teaching position at Abingdon Elementary School and one new part-time aide each at Drew, Henry and Key elementary schools. Money for the positions was authorized from the school contingency fund.