In the face of continued controversy, Dr. Margaret Ford, superintendent for Area III of the Fairfax County School system, will decide by tomorrow whether or not to recommend that the school board close Dunn Loring Elementary School next year.
Dunn Loring, 2334 Gallows Rd., with an enrollment this year of 183 and a projected enrollment next year of 155, is the smallest school in the county system. According to a report presented to the school board recently by the Area III School Closing Task Force, Dunn Loring's per-pupil costs are the highest in the area studied.
Although the board's school closing policy has been suspended while several task forces on declining enrollment complete their studies, the board reserved the right, under the resolution setting up the task forces, to close schools when necessary to protect the education of children.
The controversy surrounding the possible closing of Dunn Loring has been brewing since 1975 when a study on closing the school, which has a capacity for 250 students but was losing enrollment, was halted because of strong community feelings that growth was coming to the area.
That growth has failed to materialize and in December 1977, Ford met with the school's PTA to discuss the possibility of closing the institution. At a subsequent meeting with parents, Ford said that if next year's projections prove correct, the county formula for pupil-teacher ratio would provide only 5 1/2 teachers for the school's seven grades, kindergarden through sixth. In grades one through three, one teacher is assigned for every 26 students, and in grades four through six, one teacher for every 28 students.
Dunn Loring parents have received a letter from Ford citing the high per pupil costs and a decline in educational services, as well as ballots asking their opinions on three options for the school. Results of the poll will be forwarded to parents, who also will be asked to attend a meeting next week.
Options listed on the ballot are: to keep Dunn Loring open even though there will be reduced services; to close the school because children will be best served by attendance at a school with a larger enrollment, or to keep the school open but allow parents to request pupil placement at Stenwood Elementary school, seven-tenths of a mile from Dunn Loring, with transportation provided.
School board member Ann P. Kahn said early results of the balloting indicate "most parents are concerned most about the education of their children." She added, however, that opinion in the community is by no means unanimous.
A group calling itself Concerned Parents of Dunn Loring Elementary School, is attempting to show the decision-making until more information is available. Heading the group is David Cannon, father of three students in the school and one pre-schooler. Canon said he believes the ballot was biased in favor of closing the school and he, along with several other parents, circulated a petition requesting that the ballot be withdrawn until more information was available to parents.
Cannon has also cited development in the area which he says will raise the projected enrollment figures for next year. He cited construction of the 415 unit Fairtax Tower in the district and 42 homes under construction on Wincanton and Electric avenues. Kahn said school projections already include developments.
Another of Cannon's concerns is that children transferred from Dunn Loring to Stenwood Elementary School may again face a school closing County projection show that Stenwood, even with Dunn Loring's students, will be under-enrolled in three years.
Kahn said she has requested that the county task forces on declining enrollment include a provision or some assurance for parents whose children have been moved, indicating that they will not face moving again.
"Parents at Dunn Loring are lucky that Stenwood can take all of their students if the school closes," said Kahn. "Often the students in one school that is closed are split between several schools."