One week after, the Fairfax County School board voted to close seven elementary schools the once-vocal army of parents who petitioned, protested and finally pleaded with the board to keep the schools open has been reduced to a few tattered souls.
In the aftermath of any school closing battle comes the inevitable question from those who fought the closings and lost: "What did we do wrong?"
But in Fairfax County, the consensus of many parents is that their campaign strategies were right on the mark. The catch, they contend, is that the rules of the game were not in their favor -- that the school board had decided long before its official vote to support Superintendent L. Linton Deck's recommendation to close the schools.
Of the eight schools proposed for closing, only Annandale Terrace was spared. Board members contended enrollment was the major reason the school was kept open. But seven other schools got a thumbs down from the board. Those schools are Devonshire, Edsall Park, Holling Hall, Hollin Hills, Masonville, Walnut Hill and Wilton Woods.
Deck's recommendation to close eight schools came just two weeks after citizens advisory groups, appointed by the school board to make recommendations on specific schools, suggested closing only three county schools.
While board members assured the public that the citizens' advised would be given equal weight with the superindent's, few members of the advisory committees seemed surprised by last week's decision to go beyond their advice and close four schools not on their list.
One indication of the public's attitude toward the school board assurances came last week when board member Mary Collier insisted that the public's views were a major factor in board deliberations.
"I know many of you feel we have ignored you but I assure you we have not," Collier said before the board began voting the closings. At that, the crowd broke into loud guffaws.
During the length and complicated closing studies, spanning five months and including four citizens advisory groups and countless public meetings and workshops, several communities jumped to the forefront in an attempt to save their schools.
The active Edsall Park community carried picket signs and disrupted several meetings in an attempt to draw attention to their stand.
Holling Hall supporters plastered the neighborhood and their cars with red school house signs reading, "Save Our School," and parents made no secret of the fact that they would prefer to see their neighbors in Waynewood without a school next year.
But parents from Wilton Woods went to the greatest lengths to establish their credibility before the board. According to several Wilton Woods parents, attorney Michael Henke, whose children attend the school, provided professional advice. The work paid off in some ways, prompting several school board members to praise Wilton Woods parents for their "professional" manner in outlining the issue.
But in the final analysis, this "professional" show of community support didn't save Wilton Woods. The numbers were the sole determinant, and the numbers said that student enrollment at Wilton Woods - and the other six schools -- has been declining for the past decade and will continue to decline.
Now that the closings are a fact, the question being asked is whether the proces was worth it.
School board members says the community involvement was designed as a way "to close schools in a less rancorous way," yet many parents would argue that using rancor as a yardstick, the study was an object failure.
Parents in Fairfax appear to be as bitter and angry as parents in other Washington areas who have been afforded far less participation in school closing decisions than in Fairfax.
From the beginning, even those parents fighting the hardest to save their schools seemed certain their actions were futile, but they went through the motions anyway.
"Oh, they're going to close Hollin Hall," predicted Jim Borland several months ago. Borland, the father of two pre-schoolers, was a leader in the fight to keep Hollin Hall open and was instrumental in organizing a communitywide protest of the threatened closing.
Supervisor Joe Alexander (D-Lee), who led the fight to keep Wilton Woods open, was openly upset by the process. Just before the vote on Wilton Woods, he whispered aloud: "I'm afraid some (school board) members had their minds made up ffrom the beginning. That's very unhealthy attitude."
After the board announced its decision to close Wilton Woods in June, Alexander slapped the seat in front of him and strode from the room in disgust.
That disgust was repeated six times last weeks. The board took up each school separately, and each time it voted to close a school, parents stalked out of the room.
There was just one moment of almost uncontrollable glee. When board member Gary Jones mentioned "an elected school board" during one discussion, the crowd went wild, with several waves of deafening applause.
The parents seemed to be demonstrating their growing displeasure with the school board -- an arm of the government which they say is not listening to them.