The Montgomery County Council yesterday voted against leasing an unused school building to supporters of the private Immaculata School, which is ending its operations in the District in June. The council decided instead to go ahead with earlier plans for a recreation center at the Chevy Chase site.
Parents of the Immaculata students said they still hope to preserve the school, but were at a loss what to do next. The Catholic girls school, which has 560 students, has been operated by the Sisters of Providence for 80 years, in buildings at Tenley Circle NW. But in October the order decided to close the school and sell the buildings to American University to pay for pensions and the medical care of its aging members.
The parents had asked the Montgomery council if they could lease Leland Junior High School, which closed four years ago. Council members expressed sympathy for Immaculata's plight but voted 4 to 2 against the proposal.
Several members cited concerns that the private school would disrupt enrollment patterns and racial balance at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and other nearby county schools by drawing students from the public schools, which have been the focus of busing and racial balance disputes. The county school board has voted unanimously against the Immaculata proposal.
"I think we have invested so much in the way of resources and public commitment to the success of the voluntary integration programs in this area of the county," said council member David Scull, "that it would be a serious mistake for the county to go along with the proposal."
Council member William Hanna, who voted for the Immaculata proposal, angrily criticized county school officials for arguing that Immaculata would disturb racial balance, despite offers by Immaculata to restrict enrollment from the area. He accused the school board of seeing "a hobgoblin under every bed and in every closet."
The plans for a recreation center are supported by Chevy Chase officials, county planners, the county recreation department and County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist.