Reflecting Arlington's growing cultural and ethnic diversity, white students no longer constitute a majority of the student population in 10 ot the county's 33 public schools: eight elementary schools, one intermediate and one high school.
Just two years ago, only four schools had more minority students than white students enrolled. In 1980, there were six such schools.
Results of the latest survey of the ethnic and racial makeup of the county schools, released this week, show that the 9,125 white students still make up the majority, or 61.9 percent, of the 14,746 student enrollment. But their number has decreased by 734 since last year, when 65.1 percent of the 15,139 students were white.
Similarly, the number of black students has declined, but the ranks of Asian, mostly Vietnamese, and Hispanic students have continued to swell, as they have since 1968.
Allen Norris, director of planning and assessment for the Arlington schools, said the decline in the numbers of whites and blacks reflects the "normal urbanization and land development" patterns in the county in recent years.
Because of current economic factors, fewer single-family houses -- the preference of families with school-aged children -- are being built, Norris pointed out. At the same time, older families whose children have grown are finding it difficult to sell their houses to younger families because of the slow real estate market, he said.
Many of the Asian refugees who have relocated in Arlington, however, have rented the less-expensive garden apartments in the county, and this has affected the racial and ethnic makeup of the school population.
The number of Asian students has continued to grow as refugees find their way to this area to be reunited with relatives and friends. Last year, according to Norris, about 3 percent of the 125,000 Indo-Chinese who entered the United States came to Virginia. Of that 3 percent, Norris said, 30 percent settled in Arlington.
At Glencarlyn Elementary School this year, for example, the 250 Asian students make up 51.6 percent of the 485 pupils -- nearly double the number in 1979, when they numbered 95 and accounted for 25.6 percent of an enrollment of 371.
The 123 white students at Glencarlyn this year account for 25.4 percent of the students; two years ago, there were 171 white children, or 46.1 percent of the enrollment.
Based on this fall's enrollment figures, the 2,102 Asians in the school system make up 14.3 percent of the student population, up from 11.7 percent last year and from 1.3 percent (338 students) in 1968. The 1,215 Hispanics enrolled this fall represent 8.21 percent of the total school population, an increase from 7.1 percent last year and 1.8 percent (464 students) in 1968.
The black student population this year dropped by 123 students to 2,291, or 15.5 percent of all students in the system. Last year they made up 16 percent of the enrollment.
The white student population has declined gradually since 1968, when it made up 85.9 percent of all students. In that year, Arlington schools were 10.9 percent black.
Glencarlyn Principal Lee Penders said most of the white students who have attended his school have lived in an older neighborhood between Rte. 50 and Northern Virginia Doctors Hospital, where housing is single-family and there now are few school-aged children. Many of the Asian students live in the apartment houses near Columbia Pike, Penders said.
Principals Paul Wireman of the Key Elementary School and Ann Fenton of the Claremont Elementary School say similar housing patterns have affected the minority enrollments at their schools.
At Claremont, 138 Asian students account for 35.2 percent of the enrollment, almost exactly the same percentage represented by the 139 whites. In addition, 12.2 percent of the students are Hispanic and 17.1 percent are black.
Two years ago, Claremont's 62 Asian students represented 16.4 percent of a 379-pupil enrollment; 49.6 percent were white.
At Key, the Asian student population has increased in the past two years from 39 (8.6 percent) to 89 (18.5 percent). The Hispanic population increased from 145 to 172, and the number of black students from 31 to 32.
Other elementary schools where minority groups collectively make up a majority are Barcroft (51.1 percent), Barrett (50.4), Glebe (51), Patrick Henry (67.5) and Hoffman-Boston Kindergarten (58.1).
Since the intermediate and high schools draw on a feeder system from the elementary schools, their enrollments tend to reflect the growing minority ranks as grade-schoolers move up. Kenmore Intermediate and Wakefield High, in South Arlington, have the heaviest concentrations of minority students, who constitute a majority at both schools.
At Kenmore, the white student enrollment has dropped to 46.1 percent from 56.4 percent two years ago. The black and Hispanic enrollments have remained fairly constant since then, at about 17 and 10 percent respectively. But the Asian enrollment has increased from about 16 percent to 26 percent.
At Wakefield, the 810 white students account for 47.8 percent of the 1,696 students enrolled, down from two years ago when they numbered 1,022 and represented 58.5 percent of the 1,746 students. Here too the numbers of Hispanics and blacks have remained fairly constant since then, at nearly 7 percent and 20 percent respectively.
Asian students, however, have increased their numbers at Wakefield from 13 percent to 25 percent.
The school system conducted the survey to comply with federal requirements for an annual civil rights survey, according to a school spokeswoman.