The Alexandria school board next week will consider a proposal to set up half-day sessions at Minnie Howard School during the next three years for sophomores at T. C. Williams High School.
The proposal, made by outgoing Superintendent John L. Bristol, would mean sending 425 of next year's estimated 850 sophomores to Minnie Howard each morning and bringing them back to T. C. Williams each afternoon. The other half of the class would spend its mornings at T. C. Williams and its afternoons at Howard.
The temporary movement of students was proposed to gain more elbow room at T. C. Williams, the city's only high school, which currently enrolls 2,646 students. Howard is currently used only for administrative purposes and special programs.
Bristol's proposal was opposed several weeks ago at a public hearing by the high school's Parent Teacher Association because it would be "disruptive" to students. Several board members questioned whether it was needed at all.
The board will consider the proposal at its next regular meeting on April 30.
"We are tight (for space), but we're not overcrowded at Williams," assistant superintendent for administration, Mrs. A. M. (Mickey) Moore, said this week. "Under this plan, we would free up 12 regular classrooms for subjects such as math, English and social studies."
The proposal, if passed, would also open up physical education space at T. C. Williams for the mandatory driver education program and utilize the gymnasium at Howard that is currently unused, Moore said.
According to an analysis by school transportation director John D. Johnson III, busing sophomores from T. C. Williams to Howard, less than half a mile away, would cost a maximum of $43,140 annually.
"Our feeling is the move is unnecessary," said John F. Quinn, president of the T. C. Williams PTA. "It's silly to start reopening schools after we've just closed them. We ought to give the students a chance to settle down."
Approximately 1,000 sophomores entered T. C. Williams, located on Upper King Street near Braddock Road, this year under the school system's controversial consolidation plan designed to deal with declining enrollments. Until this fall, only juniors and seniors had attended the sprawling campus, adjacent to Chinquapin Park.
The transfer proposal would last for only three years, until the expected decrease in school enrollment lowers T. C. Williams' student population to more "comfortable" levels below next year's expected 850 sophomores, principal Robert A. Hanley said.
"We are losing 2 percent of our enrollment annually," he said.
Bristol was out of town this week and could not be reached for comment on his proposal. In a memo to the school board last month, he wrote that there was a "definite need for additional classrooms" at T. C. Williams, as well as for more conference rooms.
Bristol outlined three short-term possibilities, including moving students to Howard, building more classrooms at T. C. Williams and hiring additional buses to bring more students to the first period "early bird" classes, which begin at 8 a.m.
But he eliminated the construction alternative because of the current money crunch, and said it would be far too expensive to provide bus service for the first period students. (There are buses available for all other students.)
The least expensive alternative was sending students on a temporary basis to Minnie Howard, Bristol concluded.
According to Moore, 888 students attend first period classes, 2,521 students attend the second period, 2,498 attend third period and 1,520 the fourth.
Hanley pointed out that under the transfer plan all sophomores would have lunch at Howard, preserving the students' sense of belonging to the school.
Board member Judy Feaver said, "We do have space problems at T. C. Williams, but I wonder if sophomores coming to the school for the first time shouldn't stay there so they don't feel like stepchildren."
Teachers at the school will be polled this week to learn their preferences. The results will be released at the board meeting, Moore said.