Fairfax County School Superintendent L. Linton Deck, in one of his first major recommendations since taking office, called yesterday for closing eight elementary schools in the eastern section of the county -- five more closings than a review panel had suggested.
His proposals brought immediate protests from community groups -- at least two of which yesterday threatened to sue if the county school board shuts their school.
Deck's proposals came as a shock to many community leaders who said they had assumed the superintendent would follow closely the advice of a citizens committee and urge closing just three schools -- Devonshire, Edsall Park and Walnut Hill -- because of declining enrollment.
However, Deck went further and asked for permission to close five additional schools -- Annandale Terrace, Hollin Hall, Hollin Hills, Masonville and Wilton Woods -- as well. All would be shut next fall under Deck's plan.
His recommendations, subject to school board approval, were the first major policy proposals that Deck has made since he arrived in Fairfax earlier this year. He came from Orange County, Fla., where he had the reputation of being a tough administrator and a controversial figure, especially in the area of school closing.
"I suspect the reason he was brought here was to close the schools," complained Edna Roberts, president of the Edsall Park PTA.
Others said they believed his recommendations to close so many schools was proof that the review committee's role was to "diffuse citizen outrage and nothing more."
"This was a cynical manipulation and outrageous duplicity," charged Paul Stewart, president of the Wilton Woods PTA."The closing studies were a gimmick . . ."
Fairfax Supervisor Joseph Alexander, the county board's senior Democrat, accused Deck and the school staff of ignoring the desires of the community members in formulating the recommendation.
"I suspect that these recommendations may be have been formulated prior to the release of reports by the committees," said Alexander, who had worked closely with residents in the Wilton Woods area during a three-month-long closing study.
Throughout the study, school planners have insisted that closing schools with low enrollments will save the county money. Schools planning director Nathaniel Orleans said yesterday the projected saving under Deck's proposed closings was not available.
"I don't have any numbers to talk about now," he said. "The fact of the matter is, this system can function more effectively with five fewer schools than it does now."
The eight proposed closings would affect 2,248 children, all of whom reside in the older, more established eastern section of the county. At the same time, Fairfax officials are attempting to build new schools in the rapidly growing western and southern sections of the county.
Two new schools are expected to open next fall in the Burke area, and the school board plans to seek a bond referendum in 1981 to fund another school in the Newington Forest area.
Opponents of school closings insist little money actually is saved when shools are closed, because the vacant buildings must be maintained by county taxpayers, who are saddled with the higher costs of busing the closed schools' students elsewhere.
"There is no savings, none whatsoever," said Alexander."They didn't have those figures when we started this thing and they don't have them now . . . and I don't think they'll have them in two weeks."
Representatives from at least two schools, Edsall Park and Wilton Woods said they were investigating the possibility of a lawsuit to keep their schools open. School officials said yesterday the threats come as no surprise.
"I would not be surprised if we were sued on school closings this time; we've been sued before," said Orleans. School officials say they have always won such suits.
Deck's proposals will be presented formally to the school board at a meeting Thursday night that has been moved from the small boardroom on Page Avenue in Fairfax to Falls Church High School to accomodate what school officials anticipate will be a large -- and angry -- crowd.
Several board members said yesterday they were not in agreement with Deck's proposal and predicted some boad members won't go along with all the proposals.
"The way the report was presented disturbs me," said board member Anthony Lane. "There were no real reasons given as to why those shcools were selected for closing. I can understand the frustration of people who atched the whole process, then suddenly they wind up with a recommendation to close all these schools."
The board has scheduled a public workshop on school closings for May 1 and several public hearings before it reaches a decision on May 22.
Community members say they are organizing groups to jam the public hearings to show their opposition to the school closings.
"This proposal shows a total lack of good faith," said Jim Borland, a member of the Hollin Hall community who has opposed the closing of his school throughout the study. "We intend to fight this thing all the way."
"We are going to take the community to the school board to let them know this community is solidly behind keeping the school," Borland said.