Arlington school officials, under increasing pressure to revise a 1971 county school desegregation plan that calls for busing of only black children, have proposed plans to dramatically shorten the daily round-trip bus rides of some students.
Henry Gardner, director of school operations, has proposed sending kindergarten through third grade pupils from predominantly black neighborhoods in south Arlington to either Barcroft or Barrett elementary schools or dividing the students between three schools: Abingdon, Barcroft and Randolph.
All of the schools are in South Arlington and none is more than a 12-minute bus ride from the Drew and Hoffman-Boston communities where those children live. Some students currently spend up to 40 minutes each way being bused to schools at the northern tip of the county.
"I feel that it's a superb plan ," School Board Chairman Evelyn Reid Syphax said yesterday.
Syphax, who is black, has worked to amend the busing plan, which has not been formally monitored or amended since its approval by a federal judge 12 years ago.
The School Board is scheduled to approve one of the proposals Thursday when it decides what schools it will close in 1984 because of overall declining enrollment.
One of the schools the board is considering closing is Barrett.
A decision to send the Drew and Hoffman-Boston area students to that school, which is well below its student capacity, would likely prevent its closing, Syphax said.
The 65 children affected by the plan are among 300 who are bused to more than 15 elementary and secondary schools throughout Arlington in an effort to achieve racial integration.
John Robinson, one of many black leaders who have condemned the plan for making South Arlington's black children "bear the burden of desegregation," said yesterday he approved of each of the alternatives. "They would be acceptable as long as the children don't have to go to Jamestown or Tuckahoe," Robinson said, referring to the North Arlington schools that Drew and Hoffman-Boston area youngsters attend.
The plan to bus all of the students to Barrett would require $3,000 in expenses for an additional bus run but is not a "serious problem," Syphax said.
Recently, blacks have complained that the busing of only black students to achieve integration is inappropriate when Asian and Hispanic students are clustered in elementary schools such as Glencarlyn and Key.
Abingdon and Randolph schools currently have student enrollments that are 28 and 27 percent black, respectively.
Barrett and Barcroft have comparatively low numbers of blacks, with 9 and 17 percent respectively. Black students make up about 14 percent of the total school population of 14,000 students.
School officials have said that plans to change current busing patterns by transferring elementary school pupils would still comply with the county's desegregation goals.