More than 300 Arlington residents presented the county school board with a list of concerns ranging from school busing to alternative schools during a hearing last week on proposed school closings for fall of 1984.
About a third of the residents voiced support for the three alternative schools, Page Traditional, Drew Model and H-B Woodlawn Secondary, and urged the board to keep them open. Over the past months, there have been suggestions that the schools be closed or their programs made part of regular school programs.
The three schools embrace a spectrum of educational philosophies. Page is a "back-to-basics" school for kindergarten through seventh grade; Drew Model, for first through sixth grades, is a "continuous progress" school where students proceed at their own pace, and H-B Woodlawn, for seventh through 12th grades, has a college-style format.
"I ask you to continue the alternative schools," said parent Percy Scott, echoing the sentiments of several in the audience. "The regular schools can't meet the needs of all our children."
Several speakers criticized the alternative programs, however. Doris Broughton, a parent and teacher, said that although she believes the alternative schools are valuable for some students, she thinks they should be more integrated racially. The racial mix at the schools, Broughton said, gives the appearance of "white flight."
"Even if that appearance is false, appearance is an important factor when people form impressions of a school district," she said.
Racial issues were discussed at other times during the evening as speakers questioned the school system's integration plan and school busing.
Audrey Moten, of the Martin Luther King Community Center, told the board she had "never approved of the so-called integration plan in Arlington. The burden has always been on the black community and the plan has been haphazard from the beginning."
Some neighborhood schools, such as Langston and Hoffman-Boston, which had served large parts of the black community, had been converted to other school uses, Moten noted, and she urged the board to return the buildings to use as neighborhood schools. If they were reopened as neighborhood schools, Moten contended, black children would not have to be bused as extensively as they currently are.
Moten said the black community is most affected by the current busing plan. Although children of other races are also bused, she pointed out, only black students from South Arlington's Nauck community are divided among and bused to the county's 18 regular elementary schools for desegregation purposes.
Although the way in which grades will be grouped in the schools is one of the major issues being considered in connection with the possible closings, few in the audience addressed the issue.
One proposal, which would have four groupings, was rejected overwhelmingly by the audience. The plan, known as the 6-2-2-2 format, would group students in kindergarten through sixth grade, seventh and eighth grades, ninth and 10th and 11th and 12th. Under the plan, grades 11 and 12 would be housed in one high school building, while grades nine and 10 would be housed in two other high school buildings.
"The 6-2-2-2 doesn't do anything but keep three administrators employed," said Maurice Shyne, a parent.
When school board member Claude M. Hilton asked if anyone favored the plan, he got a resounding "no" from the audience.
Donn Marston, a member of a special school board-appointed commission that drew up three secondary school formats for the board to study, defended the 6-2-2-2, saying that it would allow flexibility. Marston also noted that this plan, compared with another that would close one high school, would keep all three high school buildings open.
The board has scheduled another hearing on school closing issues for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at Williamsburg Intermediate School, 3600 N. Harrison St., Arlington.