Splitting along racial and community lines, a task force set up by the Prince George's County school board to reconsider the closing of Randolph Village Elementary School has voted against reopening the school.
The task force was the last recourse for a group of black community leaders and parents who wanted to keep the formerly predominantly black school open. They charged that Randolph Village was closed only to stop the busing of white children to the school from the Kettering and Brock Hall areas.
In the final vote, the four white members of the task force from Kettering and Brock Hall favored keeping Randolph Village closed, two residents of the black community near Randolph Village favored reopening it, and a third Randolph area resident abstained but later said he wanted the school to stay open.
"No one wanted to say it was a racial issue, but that's what it was," said Nathaniel Exum, a Democratic state delegate from Prince George's and a representative of the Randolph Village PTA. "Nothing in the information we were given substantiated closing that school."
The school board decided last April to close Randolph Village and nine other schools in the county because of declining enrollment, and none of the buildings is being used this year.
Unlike the other affected schools, however, Randolph Village was not studied by a community task force that considered the closing issue last year. It also was in an area where the school board shut down a school in a series of closings two years ago. After the 1977 round of closings, the board informally agreed it would not close schools in areas where one already had been shut.
When a group of parents of Randolph Village students challenged the board's decision to close the school, board members agreed to bring the issue before the specially appointed community task force.
Sandra Erb, chairman of the task force and a Brock Hall resident, said the group considered enrollment, transportation, operational costs and physical facilities, "and the majority supported the decision by the school board to close the school."
Among the persuasive factors, she said, were the large number of children bused to the school every day to fill its classrooms, high utility bills and a student population that was declining faster at the school than in the rest of the county.