In Fairfax County, Fort Hunt Elementary is a most unusual school: It is in a well-off, mainly white neighborhood, yet most of its students are minorities from low-income families, bused in from several miles away.

The merging of such different cultures, once a rarity in Fairfax, has prompted protests from middle-class parents who say their children are high achievers held back by the school's focus on low-achieving students.

Yesterday, responding to an official request from the Fort Hunt PTA, county school officials unveiled plans at a community meeting to reduce the school's enrollment of what are officially called "nonneighborhood" students.

As fuel for their cause, the Fort Hunt parents pointed out that the school's average achievement test scores are among the lowest in the county. They say some local parents have pulled their children out of Fort Hunt, their neighborhood school, and sent them to private school instead.

The Fort Hunt complaints are an example of a growing issue in affluent and still largely homogenous Fairfax County, which is among the latest of the Washington suburbs to face racial and socioeconomic tensions between established whites and a growing minority population. Minorities make up nearly 22 percent of school enrollment.

Similar fights have surfaced during the past decade in parts of Montgomery County, Alexandria, Arlington and Prince George's County -- all areas that have had to grapple with desegregating their schools.

The Fort Hunt protests echo those of some parents in the Baileys Crossroads area, where increasing numbers of foreign-born students have boosted minority enrollment to the point that they account for a majority of students at several schools.

Fort Hunt Elementary's unusual situation was created a decade ago because neighborhood enrollment dropped to the point that officials considered closing the school. To keep it open, they decided to bus children to Fort Hunt, an eastern county neighborhood that borders the Potomac River just north of Mount Vernon. Children were brought in from the Janna Lee neighborhood, which is populated mostly by low-income minorities, across Rte. 1 to the west.

As births climbed in Janna Lee and declined in Fort Hunt, a growing percentage of the school's enrollment came from outside the neighborhood. School officials say just under two-thirds of the school's 390 students now are bused in, and just over half of Fort Hunt students are minorities.

"Our kids are being lost in the shuffle," one Fort Hunt mother said yesterday. Another said the situation amounts to a "takeover of our school."

One woman at yesterday's Fort Hunt meeting complained about her daughter's first grade class, where "you've got one teacher trying to teach children who don't speak English, children who barely speak English {and} children who are very bright and creative."

Many Fort Hunt parents are reluctant to be quoted by name for fear of being labeled racist, which they say they are not. "For a very few, you might find some racial comments," said civic activist John Bowen. "As a whole . . . we have a great respect for the Janna Lee community."

No Janna Lee parents spoke at yesterday's meeting, and only a handful of minority parents were in the audience. Fort Hunt parents dominate the PTA, and their children are more heavily represented in extracurricular activities. Community activists say attempts to organize the Janna Lee parents, many of whom do not speak English, have failed.

School system officials say they have poured extra staff and money into Fort Hunt under a special program designed for schools with high enrollments of underachieving, minority, foreign-born and transient students. It is part of the system's recent focus on raising minority achievement.

Neighborhood residents protested that the additional help has not solved the problem, and school officials conceded as much yesterday.

"If we do the job we can do educationally, I don't think there would be this concern in the audience," area superintendent Jay Jacobs told the meeting, which was attended by 150 people. "We have begun to do that."

Jacobs told the meeting he wants to reduce the number of Janna Lee students at Fort Hunt by sending 47 to another school, Hybla Valley Elementary, next fall. As a result, neighborhood children would account for a slight majority of the school's enrollment, Jacobs said.

His proposal met a mixed reception from Fort Hunt parents. Several parents said they distrust school officials' promises because of lingering bitterness over the closing of the neighborhood high school two years ago. Some urged that Jacobs split the Janna Lee students among two or three other elementary schools. Jacobs said it would be unfair to the Janna Lee children to split them up.

Many in the audience agreed that the "nonneighborhood" children would not be an issue if the school were given more money for special programs.

"They properly feel that additional resources are necessary," said Gerald W. Hyland, the newly elected supervisor of the Mount Vernon District that includes Fort Hunt. Hyland called the boundary proposal "reasonable."

The community meeting was one of numerous such sessions held by school officials across the county yesterday in preparation for massive school boundary adjustments that will take effect next year.

Students at 40 to 50 schools could be affected by boundary changes triggered by changing enrollment patterns and the opening next fall of a new high school and five elementary schools in the county's booming western and southern areas. School staff members will present final proposals to the School Board Dec. 17 after consulting with civic groups. After public hearings, the board will vote March 10.