Hundreds of parents and students turned out last night for gatherings at Fort Hunt and Groveton high schools aimed at mustering support for the continued existence of both Mount Vernon area schools in the face of proposals to convert them into intermediate schools.

At Fort Hunt High, about 800 people crowded into the auditorium for an old-fashioned pep rally featuring the school orchestra, choir, cheerleaders, flag corps and drill team.

Peter Brinitzer, chairman of the Neighborhood Schools Coalition in the Fort Hunt area, formed last October, told the crowd:

"Only if there is no other alternative will we back the closing of a school."

He urged citizens to "bombard the School Board members" with pleadings for the school, to donate money for a media campaign and brochure boasting of the school's achievements and to attend upcoming public hearings.

At Groveton High, about 400 people attended a meeting called by Citizens Associated for Responsible Education, a community group, and enthusiastically endorsed a recommendation by a citizens task force for converting Fort Hunt High into an intermediate school, closing Bryant and Foster intermediate schools and renovating Whitman Intermediate.

The task force, assigned by the Fairfax County School Board to look at declining enrollment in the Mount Vernon area, made that recommendation in October, noting that Fort Hunt High has a relatively small enrollment -- 1,200 students -- and is the farthest removed from the county's growth centers.

But in December, School Superintendent William J. Burkholder recommended converting Groveton High to an intermediate school and closing Bryant, Foster and Whitman.

He said the primary reason for his proposal was that it would cost less than the task force's proposal.

The School Board is to decide March 14 after a series of public hearings.

The Fort Hunt coalition, which sponsored last night's rally at that school, rejects both the task force proposal to convert Fort Hunt High and Burkholder's to convert Groveton into intermediate schools.

Instead, it advocates a series of attendance boundary changes.

Attending the rally was T. Ferrell Egge, a member of the County Board of Supervisors who was greeted by enthusiastic applause when introduced.

The coalition reported raising more than $11,500 and spending more than $4,000 so far in its effort to keep the school open.

Meanwhile, at Groveton High, the Citizens Associated for Responsible Education said in a prepared statement it supports the task force recommendation favoring the conversion of Fort Hunt High into an intermediate school because "it will provide quality education and a full program of academic and vocational studies for all students, and ensure long-term stability" for the Mount Vernon area.

Barbara Rosenfeld, cochairman of the group, said the task force report "reflects the view of the overwhelming majority of citizens in the Mount Vernon area."