"This has been a very nice course," said Ruby Reynolds, who is "over 65" but won't say by how much, as she sat in a first-floor classroom at 1100 Harvard St. NW.

Nearby on the carpeted floor was a mannequin that instructor Alma Williams used to teach cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The 14 elderly students in the University of the District of Columbia course for homemaker-health aides watched carefully.

All of them are low-income District residents whose training is paid by federal and D.C. government grants. When the five-week course is over, most expect to get jobs caring for other elderly people who need help to stay in their homes.

UDC had planned to offer the course again this summer at its Institute of Gerontology, which has been housed for eight years in the old Wilson Teachers College building. But on Tuesday the D.C. Council passed legislation ordering the university to vacate the turreted, red brick building by Aug. 14 and turn it over to the new city-run law school it established to replace the failing Antioch School of Law.

"We don't know what's going to happen to us. We can't just pick up and move," said Clavin Fields, director of the institute, which had about 1,000 students -- most of them poor, elderly and black -- in its special courses last year.

"Why should black older persons be displaced by this?" said Fields. "Antioch is supposed to be a law school for the poor, and here they are taking something away from the poor for themselves."

Yesterday afternoon the interim board of the new law school was sworn in and held its first meeting after four months of delay, caused by the unwillingness of Mayor Marion Barry to support the venture.

Thomas J. Mack, an Antioch law professor, was named chairman of the five-member group. He called for a "fresh approach" to gain cooperation from the mayor and the UDC Board of Trustees, which rejected the law school's bid to become part of UDC and has opposed transferring the Wilson building.

"We'd like to talk with them. We'll be flexible," Mack said. But he added: "It's like the State of Israel. Our right to exist must be respected."

Mack explained, "We're not wedded to one building . . . . But it's up to the District government to decide on a suitable building for its law school. It's pretty strong medicine. But if nobody wants to talk, then it will be done the council's way."

The 74-year-old building, valued by the city assessor's office at $3.5 million, is the main classroom and office building for UDC's College of Education and Human Ecology. It now holds classes for about 2,200 students, including the 1,000 in the gerontology institute, and offices for 55 faculty members.

Even though education courses have lost enrollment during the past 10 years, UDC officials said they have no other place to put the programs. The university is spending $4.4 million for rented space this year.

"It unconscionable that they would force us to go out and rent more space," said UDC Board Chairman N. Joyce Payne, "and maybe jeopardize the accreditation of our programs."

But council member Hilda H.M. Mason (Statehood-At Large), who proposed the takeover bill, rejoined, "I think they have enough space now if they used it adequately. And there's a lot of space for them in other city buildings around the District."

The council passed the bill as emergency legislation that Barry can sign or veto, although if he takes no action in 10 days it would become law without his signature.

During the past year, the law school has been a prominent part of the complex politics of the D.C. Council. On Tuesday, Frank Smith (D-Ward 1) said Mason and Antioch's two other most ardent supporters, Chairman David A. Clarke and Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), had "bought my vote" last September, by agreeing that the independent law school would receive no more than $3 million annually in District operating and construction funds for three years. After that, it would become part of UDC with no spending limit.

"Let's stop kidding ourselves," said John Ray (D-At Large). "There's no way we can operate a quality law school for $3 million . . . . There's no way the {American Bar Association} will . . . realistically accredit this law school with a cap like that."