The Arlington School Board decided again last night not to participate in Fairfax County's regional high school for science and technology, citing Arlington school programs that board members said were as comprehensive as those offered at the school in Annandale.
"The fundamental question is how much more would our students get there than they get" in Arlington, board member Dorothy Stambaugh said. "Nothing that I can see . . . . And we have programs that school cannot touch."
The board's 4-to-0 vote, with member Margaret Bocek abstaining, was the second vote in as many years and followed the recommendation of Arlington's new school superintendent, Arthur W. Gosling.
"I would recommend that we invest in programs in Arlington rather than participating in" the Fairfax program next year, said Gosling, a former Fairfax County assistant superintendent. School Board Chairman Gail Nuckols estimated the program could eventually cost $500,000 a year.
The school is one of four "magnet" schools opened in Virginia this year that feature varying curricula designed to attract gifted students.
As the host jurisdiction for the science and technology school, Fairfax controls the program and invites other jurisdictions to send students there. Fairfax sets tuition fees and an enrollment quota.
Under those criteria, Nuckols said, Arlington was entitled to enroll 28 public or private school students at a county-paid cost of $5,000 each next year.
In an interview before the meeting, Nuckols said, "You could serve more kids than those 28 kids a year in Arlington spending the exact or a smaller amount of money."
Besides finances, the board, including members Frank Wilson and Judy Connally, raised questions about what they consider to be other flaws in the program.
One of the chief concerns, several said, is the so-called "brain-drain" factor that would draw some of the county's best students to the Fairfax school and, consequently, could place advanced science courses in jeopardy because of decreased enrollments.
The test scores of Arlington students in the school would be reported as those of Fairfax students.