Judy Feaver, newest member of the Alexandria School board, said in an interview last week that she will support efforts this year to reopen Cora Kelly Elementary School. The school was closed three years ago, despite protests from the black community, when the building was damaged by flood.
"I would have to be persuaded that there's a good reason why Cora Kelly shouldn't be reopened," Feaver said. "I just couldn't justify not reopening that school."
Feaver currently the chairman of the citizens advisory committee of the Alexandria Community Development Block Grant program and an active school supporter, was appointed to the school board last week. During a marathon meeting June 27, the Alexandria City Council named Feaver to a three-year term to replace board Chairman Carlyle C. Ring, who had served for nine years.
The council also reappointed William D. Euille and the Rev. John O. Peterson to the nine-member board.
Feaver said she expects a review of the Kelly school decision to be considered this year. The school was closed by the school board in December 1975, after it had been damaged by a flood from the nearby Four Mile Run. At the time, the board said it was unwilling to subject students at the school to the danger of more flooding, but now a flood control project on the stream is nearly finished, Feaver said.
Kelly school is in a neighborhood that is primarily black, and the decision to close the school caused much of the same public protest the board heard this spring when it voted to close two other elementary schools, Robert E. Lee at 1108 Jefferson St. and Stonewall Jackson at 25 S. Quaker Lane, both in black neighborhoods.
School closings are very political decisions," Feaver said. "The black community is right, they have really borne the brunt of school closings. But up to this time there've been logical reasons for the closings."
Feaver said the closings this spring were based on a study that showed that the two schools were not cost-efficient because of declining enrollments. The Kelly school decision should be reconsidered, however, Feaver said, because the neighborhood was promised that the school would be reopened if the flood problem was corrected.
Feaver, a quiet-spoken woman who seems to dislike publicity, said the board probably will have to wrestle with other school closings during her three-year term. She suggested that John Tyler Elementary School, in the western end of the city might be a good candidate because Northen Virginia Community College has offered to buy the building. Some secondary school closings also may be needed because of declining enrollments, she said.
Feaver has been active in the local school system since moving to Alexandria in 1970. She said she began her work as a volunteer classroom aide, but then shifted interests in 1976 when the school board was considering building a new school for high school freshmen and sophomores near T.C. Williams Senior High School. Feaver headed a citizens committee promoting the idea, but the Planning Commission failed to approve the proposal. She also has been active in the Rosemont Citizens Association and several local school and Parent-Teacher Association committees.
"As interested as I was in the housing community development issues . . . I never quite let go of the school issues," she said. "But the block grant work . . . will be very, very helpful to me."
Feaver said her community development work has given her experience with setting budgets that will be useful on the board. Although the school system has received "really good support" from the city in its budget, Feaver said requests are going to have to be carefully weighed in the future to guarantee the "best possible education that we can afford."
"The school board has to be realistic in its request for dollars," she said. "They haven't been unrealistic, but they have been able to put in some expensive programs."
Feaver supports the recent decision by the board to establish an eighth grade level as the minimum competency for high school graduation as a "reasonable standard," especially since the board still requires completion of high school. But she expressed concern over the school system policy of placing students in higher grades if they have not learned required skills.
"I like the theory of continuous progress . . . I like the theory that each child is working at his ability level," she said. "But I have watched it in this system, and I think it falls apart in the fifth- and sixth-grade level."
She suggested that more students be retained in the first and second grades rather than trying to correct a magnified problem in the sixth grade.
Feaver is a homemaker and is married to Washington Post reporter Douglas B. Feaver. The couple has two sons - Chris, who is a junior at T.C. Williams, and Steven, who is a freshman at George Washington Secondary School.