A lawyer for 30 Vienna-area parents who are challenging school attendance boundary changes told a Fairfax Circuit Court yesterday that the transfer of some students to Marshall High School near Falls Church has split the community and disrupted its "very strong emotional, historical and school ties."
In a hearing before Judge Johanna L. Fitzpatrick, attorney Jan Massey said the Fairfax County School Board "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" in setting the new boundaries and asked the count to rescind the changes.
The Vienna parents' lawsuit, brought against the School Board in connection with a major revamping of attendance boundaries earlier this year, was filed in May after the board voted to ease overcrowding at Vienna's Madison High School by sending some of its prospective students to Marshall, about five miles away.
The board's April 26 decision means that 29 students in the ninth grade who would have been enrolled at Madison are now attending Marshall.
Massey also told the court that the boundary change has increased the risk of traffic accidents for Vienna students sent to Marshall High School. The two new bus routes are longer and pass through congested areas and over hazardous roads, she said.
Several of the parents, including Dale Keeton of Vienna, said the School Board gave parents little time to make their case for preserving the existing school boundaries and then dismissed their arguments.
But Thomas Cawley, representing the School Board, told the judge that parents in the area had the same opportunity as others in the county to voice objections to the boundary proposals. The process of soliciting residents' opinions, he said, had been "elaborate" and "considered."
In addition, Cawley said the board's decision had not been directed specifically at the Vienna area but was part of a countywide effort to deal with one of the school system's perennial problems -- declining enrollment in the eastern part of the county and rising enrollment in the western part.
He said bus routes that take the Vienna students to Marshall are not unusually long and that students "adjust very well" to a high school they had not planned to attend.
Fitzpatrick is expected to rule on the case today.