The Prince William County School Board, after facing a parade of irate parents, ducked a chance to make formal recommendations on a plan to replace seven schools, voting instead to pass the controversial issue on to the County Board of Supervisors.
Some at the meeting said the School Board's action, taken in a vote on a capital improvements plan for next year, appeared to be a way of allowing more time for citizens to express their views on School Superintendent Richard W. Johnson's plan to close five elementary schools and two middle schools and build new facilities at other locations.
Johnson advertised his plan as a way to bring school locations into better alignment with the county's changing growth patterns, while avoiding mounting renovation costs at older schools.
But dozens of parents angrily told the School Board that Johnson's plan would uproot proud and established communities that have built up around the schools and cause painful and unnecessary redistricting.
"You cannot build an academic community," said one parent, Roy Cioletti. " . . . Don't worry about the boiler room, don't worry if the roof leaks. Worry if you've got a good administration, good teachers, and good students."
One School Board member, Donald A. Chendorain, chided the school administration for not giving the board more advance notice of Johnson's plan.
"Frankly, I just heard about this three weeks ago. Why wasn't the board informed earlier?" he asked. "I recommend more thought and community input."
Voting to send the plan to the supervisors without a recommendation were School Board members Maureen C. Caddigan, Odis M. Price, George P. Mullen and Patricia L. Cusey. Voting against was Ilona A. Salmon. Board Chairman Gerard P. Cleary was not present.
The facilities Johnson proposes to replace are Bennett, Dumfries, Gainesville, Occoquan and Yorkshire elementary schools and the Marsteller and Saunders middle schools.