Three Fairfax County intermediate schools, Bryant, Foster and Whitman, are gearing up for a consolidation that will force all three to change school buildings.
The consolidation was mandated as part of the School Board's March 14 decision to solve the problem of declining enrollment in the Mount Vernon area.
The most controversial aspect of the board's action was its conversion of Fort Hunt High School to an intermediate school. Fort Hunt students will go to Groveton High in September 1986.
At that time, students and teachers from Bryant and Foster intermediates will shift, en masse, to the new Fort Hunt Intermediate, while students and teachers from Whitman Intermediate will move as a unit to Foster's present site. Another change is that students from the Woodlawn Village area, who would have begun seventh grade at Hayfield Secondary School this September, will go to Whitman instead. Uses for the closed Bryant and Whitman facilities have not yet been determined.
Graduates of Fort Hunt Intermediate will attend Groveton High, while graduates of Whitman/Foster Intermediate will attend Mount Vernon High.
John Lutz, principal at Bryant, said "I haven't heard a word of concern about the change from anyone in our community. I think they're very supportive of it. The good thing is that the teachers will go where the kids go."
There will be no changes affecting current students at either Whitman or Bryant. Students in both the seventh and eighth grades now at Whitman will finish there and then go on to Mount Vernon High, while all students now at Bryant will finish there and then go on to Groveton High.
With no immediate impact on Whitman looming over their heads, "We've been pretty low-key out here . . . a business-as-usual attitude," said Principal Eugene Jordan. "I see good coming out of this decision for all our kids. With larger student body populations, we can offer better educational opportunities."
The situation at Foster, however, is not as tranquil. Students now in eighth grade at Foster will go to Groveton High in September, instead of Fort Hunt High, and parents and teachers say this is causing anxiety among many students.
Foster PTA president Gail Egger said, "We don't mind our kids going to a new school, but we'd prefer -- and our board has voted this way -- that everyone from Fort Hunt go there all at once, in September 1985."
Egger said that students at Foster "definitely" consider themselves to be part of the Fort Hunt community, and would feel "isolated" if forced to go to Groveton without other clases from Fort Hunt High there as well.
"Fort Hunt is a cohesive community," she said, "and Fort Hunt High is the focal point. Everyone, including elementary school parents without any kids at Fort Hunt, goes to the football games and considers themselves to be a part of Fort Hunt . We just feel that the decision has been made, so let's get on with it. Let's not split the community."
Egger said her son, Darren, an eighth-grader at Foster, "doesn't mind going to a new school. He just doesn't like to call it 'Groveton.' The county has said they are creating a new school and that's what he calls it: 'the new school.' "
Mary Ellen Dux, an English teacher at Foster, said teachers at her school are also worried about their futures. "We are in limbo. No one from the school system has contacted us as to where we will be employed in 1986. There's going to have to be reductions in staff, and there's a lot of anxiety over that."
Whitman principal Jordan said he met with Lutz and Foster principal Gail Carr before the School Board decision, and "we agreed that at least one of the intermediate schools had to close. None of us put a label on which one. We just agreed there had to be some combining, and we wanted to make the transition as smooth as possible."
Aiding the transition are the facts that Jordan was assistant principal at Foster for six years and that Carr has worked at all three intermediate schools. Both said their experiences at the other schools will help them in the transition.
"I have worked in Area I the Mount Vernon area for 18 years, and I have many friends and colleagues in all three pyramids Groveton, Fort Hunt and Mount Vernon ," said Carr.
"There are a lot of advantages to the consolidation," said Jordan. "We can have more extracurricular activities and more kids in each one. It also adds flexibility. With the extra numbers, we can have five introductory Spanish classes instead of three. More kids get an opportunity to take the course, and we can offer it at different times to fit into more schedules."
Projected enrollment for the new Whitman/Foster Intermediate is 750 students, with 1,100 students projected for Fort Hunt Intermediate. Whitman currently has 680 students, while Foster has 670 and Bryant has 550.
Egger said she met with Bryant PTA president Betsy Godbey last week and had "a very productive meeting. We're going to work together toward a smooth implementation" of the consolidation of the two schools at Fort Hunt.
Jordan said Whitman Intermediate has already moved once, to its present site, the old Mount Vernon "We just feel that the decision has been made, so let's get on with it. Let's not split the community." -- Gail Egger, Foster PTA president High, so "we're used to change . . . . In essence, the school is not closing, it's just moving," he said.