About 250 Groveton High School students, teachers and parents rallied yesterday to protest Fairfax County Superintendent William J. Burkholder's suprise recommendation last week that their school be closed as a high school and reopened as an intermediate school.
Holding posters that read "Groveton High is very cool; if you close it you're a fool" and wearing "Paws & Think" lapel buttons in honor of the school's tiger mascot, students promised not to give up without a fight.
In a related action, the executive board of the school's PTA planned to meet last night at 7:30 to discuss possible strategies to stop the closing of Groveton.
"What we are really asking for is calmness, and to face this with the sure sense that, in the end, we will be here," said Grant Harris, Groveton PTA president.
David Molnar, a sophomore, was one of about 32 Groveton students who spoke before a sea of cheerleaders, band members and others wearing windbreakers and sweaters in their school colors.
"Seeing all the students dressed in black and gold, I know Mr. Burkholder is wrong," he shouted to the clapping, cheering crowd. "So, pause and think, Mr. Burkholder, because Groveton cares."
Many of the parents praised Groveton's diverse student population and echoed the sentiments of Wesley James Harris, whose son is a freshman. "My son is here, and I want him to stay," he said.
Yesterday's after-school rally was sponsored by PTA members and students and was triggered by Burkholder's proposal to the Fairfax Couny School Board last Thursday. Burkholder's suggestion that Groveton be closed was contrary to a citizens' task force proposal that had called for the closing of nearby Fort Hunt High School as a way to solve the problem of declining enrollments in the eastern part of the Mount Vernon District.
Burkholder asked that Groveton become an intermediate school for students now attending Bryant, Foster and Whitman intermediate schools. Those schools would then be closed. Burkholder also recommended that Groveton's 1,200 students be divided between Fort Hunt and Mount Vernon high schools. A final decision by the School Board is expected in March.
Students and parents also said yesterday that Burkholder's recommendation has succeeded in pulling together a school that until last week was lacking in spirit and cohesiveness. As Principal Paul G. Douglas, 49, explained: "I think in the 30 years that I've been here, we've had two winning football teams."
Douglas said his own emotions in the last week have "gone from shock to anger." Added Robert Ball, 49, the PTA's publicity chairman: "This has taken the wind out of my sails."