It could have been called Miracle on Sideburn Road.
But Fairfax County School officials are still calling the event, at Robinson Secondary School on Sideburn Road, the annual public hearing on the school system-improvements plan.
What made last week's hearing unique was that it adjourned at 9:45 p.m. -- a mere two hours and 15 minutes after it began and at least three hours earlier than last year's hearing.
"Several unexpected things have happened to me this week," said one of the last speakers at the hearing, "but perhaps the most surprising is that I was near the end of the list, and here I am speaking at 9:30."
What the 34 speakers lacked in verbosity they made up for in clarity. The 10-member school board was told, in no uncertain terms, that parents in the rapidly growing western parts of the county are desperate for new schools.
Most of the speakers came from the burgeoning Pohick area, where residents are hoping for a new elementary school, and from Reston, where an intermediate school is being considered. Regardless of community ties, however, their message was the same: Don't try to fill empty classrooms in the eastern part of the county by busing in students from the west; build schools where the children are.
School board members were told, in tightly worded speeches, that the overcrowded conditions in some schools are hurting the educational process. They were warned against massive busing for safety and cost reasons, cautioned against delaying new construction and promised community support for a school bond referendum, which will be needed if the board decides to build new schools.
"The Fairfax County school system is made up of the haves and have-nots" said Nancy Lyon, president of the West Sprinfield PTA. "One part of the county has an abundance of schools . . . it has the luxury of extra classrooms.
"In the southern and western part of the county are the have-nots . . . In the not-too-distant future 1,300 students (in the growing areas) will not have roofs over their heads . . . Do not plan the future . . . with the contingency that the students can always be bused to under-enrolled schools east of I-95." t
Last year's school-closing decision, which shut down seven schools in eastern Fairfax, has tempered plans for new construction elsewhere. Observers say any school bond referendum brought before the county voters will have tough going with disgruntled parents whose children's schools were closed last year.
The board is scheduled to take up the capital improvements plan at its regular meeting tonight.