It was the only thing they talked about yesterday -- in math classes, earth science and biology.

Few students at Groveton High School, south of Alexandria, said they could understand why Fairfax County School Superintendent William J. Burkholder, in a suprise move, recommended Thursday night that Groveton be closed and converted into an intermediate school.

"I heard it on the radio this morning and I about fell over," said Kim Edens, 16, a Groveton junior and a reporter for Groveton's newspaper, the Tiger Rag.

"Shellshocked, I guess, is the word, since this was never discussed," said Marc Ostinato, 41, an English teacher who has taught at Groveton for 13 years.

"The kids are talking about losing their alma mater, their football team, their mascots," said Virginia Ryder, who has taught various subjects, including science, at Groveton for eight years.

Burkholder's recommendation was the opposite of that of a citizen task force that had called for closing Fort Hunt High, another school in southeastern Fairfax, where the number of high school students is dwindling.

The superintendent's proposal, if accepted by the county School Board, would require dividing Groveton's 1,200 students between Fort Hunt and Mount Vernon high schools.

Some of the Groveton students were expressing fears yesterday that the change could disrupt their schooling. Steven Parker, 17, a junior, said he was studying architecture and that "I don't think I can get the same training" at the other schools.

Most of Groveton's administrators, as well as its student leaders, were away yesterday afternoon at a previously scheduled retreat at Prince William Forest Park in Prince William County.

Before leaving, school Principal Paul Douglas spoke briefly to students over the public address system, telling them he had not had a chance to study the proposal and asking them not to panic.

"He said the most important thing was to demonstrate that Groveton is a class act worth keeping," said Robert Elliott, 35, an administrative aide.

Douglas said Groveton administrators will be available to students during Monday lunch sessions to answer questions and to give students a chance to express their feelings.

By midafternoon yesterday, some students reportedly were planning to circulate petitions, hoping that Burkholder will change his mind.

Burkholder's recommendation followed months of heated debate, with parents and students arguing for preservation of their schools. Students at Fort Hunt had waged the biggest and most aggressive campaign, collecting 43,000 signatures on election day, from voters throughout the county, urging that the high school remain open.

Under the Burkholder proposal, the new intermediate school at Groveton would serve students from Bryant, Foster and Whitman Intermediate schools, which would all be shut.

Students at Fort Hunt were happier. "We like the recommendation in the sense that it saves us, but it sort of defeats what we had originally set out to do -- to save the neighborhood schools," said David Hirschkop, 17, a Fort Hunt senior who worked with the coalition to save Fort Hunt.

"I mean, is this right? Should we do what we complained was being done to us?"

But Hirschkop, who is chairman of the Fairfax County Student Advisory Council to the School Board, said he agrees with Burkholder that closing Groveton will save money. "I also agree that there are no good answers," he said.