The Falls Church City Council, in a vote of support for the continued existence of Northern Virginia's smallest school system, has unanimously approved a $2.3 million improvement plan for George Mason Junior-Senior High School.

The plan, which will upgrade the 27-year-old building's heating and cooling system , improve energy efficiency and remove barriers to the handicapped, passed Monday night despite objections from a local taxpayers group.

"I am very pleased with the vote," said School Superintendent Warren J. Pace. "Whenever you have a political body making a commitment to capital improvements (in the system) that means confidence in the school system."

Critics of the Falls Church Schools point to the system's declining enrollments, down nearly 50 percent from a high in 1965 of 2,350, and its per pupil cost last year of $3,100 the highest in the area in arguing that the tiny, independent system is simply too expensive to maintain.

The 50-member Falls Church Taxpayers League presented a petition to the council at Monday's session asking them to defer their decision, and to consider, among other cost-cutting measures, having Arlington or Fairfax counties absorb the Falls Church system.

The renovation will be funded by loans from Virginia state education funds and through the sale of state bonds. A small portion will also come from the sale of high school land to build access roads for a Metro parking lot adjacent to the school campus.