Many residents of the two-year-old Newington Forest community in Fairfax County say the deciding factor in buying a house there was an orange splotch on the community map labeled "school site."
But for some time, residents have feared that the orange splotch would be the closest they would come to getting a neighborhood school.
Those fears were supported last month by publication of the five-year Capital Improvements Plan -- the blueprint for new school construction in Fairfax County.
Tonight the school board is expected to vote on the plan, which recommends busing Newington Forest students to other schools. Although other alternatives -- including construction of a new school -- are included in the plan, school board members are expected to reject all the options except the busing proposal.
The 260 elementary school students currently living in Newington Forest attend Lorton Elementary School, about five miles from the subdivision. But next year there will not be room for the Newington students.
In an attempt to find a place for the students without constructing a new building school administrators made several proposals, which include busing the children 13 miles away to Rose Hill Elementary School.
Sue Escherich, the mother of two children in Newington Forest, calls the suggestion "dangerous" and "totally irresponsible."
The parents say they favor another option: busing the children to West Springfield and Rolling Valley Elementary schools, both within five miles of Newington Forest.
Even then, parents say, the plan should be a stopgap measure, used only until Newington Forest gets its own school.
Newington parents predict their community will supply the county with 876 elementary school children by 1983. The figures are based on the school's formula for family size.
Even so, school officials, decisions on school construction are tied to the economy and the forecast that new home construction is beginning to subside.
Burdened with school closing studies in the eastern part of the county and an uncertain financial future as the result of inflation, school planners have proposed busing pupils and changing school boundaries as alternatives to constructing new schools.
Director of Planning Nathaniel Orleans admits the proposal is a "conservative approach" to school planning and says he sympathizes with the Newington residents.
"I don't blame those parents for being angry," Orleans says. "It's been a school board policy for years to build schools where the children are. This plan seems to modify that policy somewhat and it implies further deterioration of the policy.
"Of course," he adds, "this proposal is subject to change when we have a better handle on the economy."
School board member Toni Carney, who represents the Springfield District where Newington Forest is located, says the vocal community outcry is making a good case for an elementary school in Newington Forest. She notes, however, that school administrators are in a difficult position.
"Their perspective is that we need a bond referendum to finance a new school and we can't hold another one until November of 1980 . . ," she says. "They realize that (this year) we'll be in the middle of school closings and the climate won't be favorable for (passage of) a referendum."
One way to fund a new school without requiring a bond issue, Carney suggests, is to use "unallocated construction funds." At present, that account totals more than $4 million, money accumulated from bond-funded projects that cost less that originally estimated.
During the past several weeks, Newington residents have deluged the other school board members with phone calls, letters, charts and petitions to bolster their case for a school.
"We're devastated," says Escherich. "This is just like a school closing -- they're denying our kids a neighborhood school. The difference is that with a closing they allow five months of studies, and with this CTP we have about two days."