The fight was a short one, but emotions ran high as two factions of McLean parents battled over the fate of Chesterbrook Elementary School on Kirby Road.
At issue was whether to demolish the original portion of Chesterbrook, built in 1926. One group viewed the wing as historically valuable to McLean and suitable for other uses; the other group considered it historically insignificant and too expensive for the school to support.
The outcome, as decided by the school board last week, is that the old wing will be demolished as soon as possible to get on with the planned renovation of Chesterbrook Elementary School. School construction officials expect the demolition to begin early next month.
Angry words followed the board's unanimous decision - a reaffirmation of its earlier position that the old wing should be destroyed and a new gym built in its place.
"We'll name the hole in the ground after you," an irate Judy T. Palacios told Chesterbrook PTA President Mary Collier as she stormed out of the meeting hall last Thursday. Palacios has helped lead an effort to save the wing. Collier has urged its demolition, saying that to delay renovation any longer would reduce the amount of money available for improvements and possibly threaten the school's existence.
The bottom line is whether keeping the old wing works for the benefit of the children - that is our responsibility," said Ann Kahn, who represents Providence District on the school board. "Our first responsibility is to modernize Chesterbrook so that students there have the same facilities as elsewhere in the country."
Other board members agreed with her. Board Vice Chairman Anthony Lane added: "Everyone has said the wing could be used for something, but no group has come forward to say they would be willing to spend the money to fix it up and maintain it."
The McLean Community Center, as well as a private puppet company and a trails program, have been among those that have considered using the old wing. But none could afford renovation and maintenance costs, estimated at more than $100,000 by school officials.
School officials are unwilling to spend that much money on just the old wing, saying that too little money would be left to finish other improvements like the new gym and a new music room the school was promised in last spring's $39.7-million bond referendum. The renovation, including demolition of the old wing, is expected to cost $422,300.
In addition, they say, Chesterbrook's current enrollment of about 475 students is expected to drop to 211 students by 1983, making the old wing unnecessary for school activities. Chesterbrook currently has space for 570 students.
But those who want to keep the wing presented a petition signed by more than 150 McLean residents to the school board in support of their position, claiming that a tenant could be found if more time were allowed.
Donald E. Parker, a registered engineer, presented another architectural design that he said could incorporate the new gym and still leave most of the old wing intact. He said his plan could save $38,000 more than the school's plan.
However, Kahn said, "I find it difficult to believe there really is a cheaper way to do it (the school)." School construction chief Alton C. Hlavin said he had already considered a plan similar to Parker's and found it unsatisfactory.
"I wish the school board had looked more carefully at (Parker's) plan," said Pat Franklin, a Chesterbrook parent who has been involved in the fight to save the wing since the 11th-hour effort began this spring. "I think the board had already made up its mind. I don't think they gave this whole thing careful consideration."
While opponents of the demolition claim that the community at large never supported the wing's destruction, those for the demolition say it has been only a small, vocal group of Chesterbrook's future as a school.
Collier said Chesterbrook could be studied as a school for closing because of its declining enrollment, but it woule be less likely to be considered if it were renovated.
In other action last week, the school board:
Approved a contract for school services between the county and Fairfax City. The contract was expected to be approved by the city school board and City Council this week. It still will need approval from the county Board of Supervisors before it is effective.
Made two changes to the school's current sex education program. The board decided to include voluntary sex instruction in selected regular health education classes in the high schools and reevaluate the program in January for changes or for removal from the school curriculum.
Changed the mandatory retirement age for school employes from 65 to 70 in accordance with recently established federal laws.
Named a new elementary school in Reston Sunrise Valley Elementary School.
Approved a lease between Fairfax schools and the Terraset Foundation, a Saudi Arabian-funded foundation that supports public information services at Reston's solar-heated Terraset Elementary School. The lease provides for the construction of an information center on the Terraset school site.