Arlington's three controversial alternative schools apparently have been granted a reprieve by the School Board and will not be closed.
The three schools, H-B Woodlawn Secondary, Page Traditional and Drew Model, have been condemned by some as elitist and praised by others for their unusual approaches to education. But at a meeting Tuesday night, a majority of the School Board members made clear their intention to keep the schools open when it decides which of the county's schools will have to be closed in 1984 because of declining enrollments.
"The schools provide diversification and strength in the school system and I think we need that," said board member Michael E. Brunner, summing up the sentiments of the most board members.
"They're successful and we have to realize that children are different and they learn in different ways," said board member Simone J. (Sim) Pace, who has a child at Page.
Pace and the other members said something had to be done to end the "spectacle" at Page, where parents annually camp overnight for the chance to enroll their children in kindergarten. Pace, Brunner and board chairman Evelyn Reid Syphax said they were "open" to the proposed elimination of Page's kindergarten if it would force more parents to send their children to neighborhood schools.
Page, a "back-to-basics" school for kindergarten through seventh grade, generally is considered the most controversial of the three. Drew Model, for kindergarten through sixth grade, emphasizes individual progress rather than conventional grade promotions. H-B Woodlawn, for grades seven through 12, has a college-type format that also stresses individual progress. Both Drew and Woodlawn also have waiting lists.
Brunner and member Margaret A. Bocek, who has a child at Page, said they would like to see some of Page's philosophies, such as its strict promotion policy, applied to the other grade schools.
Board member Claude M. Hilton said the Arlington system "needs and should keep the alternative programs," but said he could not support the retention of Page and H-B Woodlawn in their present form.
The board is expected to vote on the issues at its Oct. 21 meeting, but what schools to close will not be decided until next year. The board also faces the decision of which grades it should assign to the county's elementary, intermediate and senior high schools. At its meeting this week, three of the board members said they tend to favor the current structure.
Arlington has had an enrollment decline of 3 to 5 percent a year for several years, prompting the board to begin studying closing schools in 1984.
Officials have said which schools are closed may depend on the grade structure the board approves. If the current structure is retained, it is likely that one high school, one intermediate school, and several grade schools will be closed.