For the past three months, the Fairfax County School Board has been embroiled in court cases contesting the board decision last spring to close several elementary schools.
This week, as the final case came to a close, the board found its decision once again supported by the county Circuit Court.
No schools will be reopened, despite vigorous protests from the community.
During the legal battles -- which were sometimes heated and always long-winded -- the board was accused of everything from corruption to conducting secret meetings.
On at least two occasions, the court expressed dismay over behavoir by the school board but did not reverse the decision to close schools.
In a suit filed in July by members of the Wilton Woods community, Judge Barnard Jennings said the board appeared to have "violated the spirit" of Virginia's open meeting law at least once.
That law defines any gathering of three or more board members as a public meeting and requires that public notice be given before the meeting and that minutes be taken during the meeting.
According to evidence introduced in a case filed by Wilton Woods parents, the board met Feb. 21, after a principal's dinner -- without prior public notice. A school closing matter allegedly was discussed, but that is a matter of dispute because no minutes were taken.
This week, in a case filed by Edsall Park parents, the subject came up again. Before ruling for the school board, Judge Thomas J. Middleton expressed "concern" that the board did not notify the public about several meetings it held last year.
In each case, however, the court found that the infractions of Virginia law were not enough to overturn the school closing decisions.
Under state law, citizens must prove that a school board exceeded its authority or acted in a corrupt manner, in order for a court to overturn an action by the board.
In a carefully worded statement delivered at the close of a case filed by Hollin Hall residents, Judge Middleton explained that legally he could offer no relief to the frustrated citizens.
". . . they (citizens) can percieve things in a light where the bureaucracy is imposing upon them and doing things which they don't want to have happen," Middleton said.
He told the parents that they were asking the court to take the place of the school board, and Middleton said he "declined that invitation."
In spite of their bitter disappointment this week, Edsall Park parents learned that the Circuit Court has a heart -- if no solutions.
"I was most interested in testimony by Edsall Park parents about the quality of education their children were receiving in that school," Middleton told the hushed audience. "I think it's a shame something like that should be lost . . . I have empathy for them that something which they treasure greatly should be lost . . . but there is really nothing I can do."