It was to have been a model school for the 1970s but Fort Lincoln Elementary School in Northeast Washington will get its first students next month.

Completed five years ago, the school has sat vacant since -- a victim of the bureaucratic disputes, financial problems and citizen disputes that have plagued and slowed the development of Ft. Lincoln.

Perched atop a hill at the 360-acre Fort Lincoln site, the $7 million school was designed for 700 students. Initially only 350 will enroll.

Gary Freeman, regional school superintendent for region 6, said about 200 will be special education students bused in from programs elsewhere in the city. The remaining 150 will be residents of Fort Lincoln, the new town under construction at Bladensburg Road and South Dakota Avenue NE. Those children are currently enrolled at Woodbridge School, Carlton Street and Central Avenue NE, but have already been organized into a separate Fort Lincoln "school."

As construction proceeds at Fort Lincoln to the eventual total of 4,600 homes and 16,000 people, Freemen said he expects the school to fill up with neighborhood children.

It was 13 years ago that the concept of a new town at Fort Lincoln was put forward by President Lyndon B. Johnson as a visible symbol of his administration's commitment to the revitalization of the nation's urban centers.

A racially and economically integrated new town was to be built on the rolling hills along the border between Washington and Prince George's County.

From the outset, the Fort Lincoln project was ensnarled in bureaucratic delays and red tape. Although the initial design work began in 1968, the city council did not approve the overall plan for the site until 1972, as citizens' groups fought over what would be built where.

Construction of the school had begun in 1973 but ground was not broken for the housing project until 1975 and by then the school had already been completed. For five years, the school has been surrounded by acres of vacant property overlooking Washington and the Maryland suburbs.

Freeman said he does not have an exact date for the transfer to the new building, but he believes it will be sometime in mid-February. He said workmen are moving furniture and equipment into the new building this week.