Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Richard J. Jamborsky ruled yesterday that a suit challenging the County School Board's decision to close Fort Hunt High School had merit and rejected a motion by the board to dismiss it.
But Jamborsky agreed to drop one of the suit's claims: that the board could not close Fort Hunt because two of its members had failed to file financial disclosure forms on time. He accepted an argument by board attorney Thomas J. Cawley that board members are not required to file the forms to have voting power.
The lawsuit by parents challenges the board's decision in March to turn Fort Hunt into an intermediate school next fall and send its 1,260 students to Groveton High School, which will be renamed West Potomac High School. The board said it acted because schools in the eastern part of the county are underused due to declining enrollment.
Jamborsky's ruling came as the plaintiffs rested their case midway through the trial's second day -- which, like the first, drew more than 100 Fort Hunt supporters to the courtroom. Testimony is expected to conclude today. Yesterday's highlight was testimony by William J. Burkholder, who retired Monday as county school superintendent.
The lawsuit's main arguments are that the school system yielded to political pressure in ruling out closing nearby Edison High instead of Fort Hunt, and that the board violated its own school size guidelines in creating a new high school that will be overcrowded.
Burkholder, who retired after 29 years with the county schools, testified for the School Board that he eliminated Edison from a list of schools to be studied for potential shutdown because of a telephone call last year from Sandra L. Duckworth, who then represented the Fort Hunt area on the County Board of Supervisors.
Burkholder insisted he did not cave in to political pressure, but said he never favored closing Edison because it is in a growing neighborhood and its boundaries had just been changed. "There was not any question in my mind about Edison being needed for the future," Burkholder said.
He said closing a high school, not just changing school boundaries, was the only solution to deal with declining enrollment in the area.
Burkholder testified that anyone who disagreed with him need only have testified at two nights of public hearings or contacted a School Board member. "The ordinary citizen had ample access to the School Board on this issue," he said.