Arlington School Superintendent Arthur W. Gosling proposed a $1.5 million program last night to ease crowded elementary schools and create three magnet programs to attract "language proficient" pupils to schools with large immigrant populations.
The proposal, presented at a School Board meeting, addresses two intertwined issues: crowding in South Arlington elementary schools and the impact of large concentrations of immigrant pupils in some of those same schools.
More than half of Arlington's 19 elementary schools are at or near their capacity, and school officials expect the sharp increase in elementary-age pupils that began in 1983 to continue for five years, said the 83-page report accompanying the recommendations.
The key remedies for the crowding include moving the county's 900 sixth graders into middle schools in September 1989 and adjusting boundaries at nine schools in South Arlington.
Gosling's approach to the immigrant pupil impact suggests another major policy change in the county: that dramatic social engineering such as busing to achieve racial integration should give way to less obtrusive, voluntary methods.
Gosling recommends trying to attract "language proficient" pupils to schools where there are large concentrations of immigrants. In doing so, he has rejected calls for cross-district busing of immigrant pupils or placing them in segregated schools until they master English.
"Busing doesn't work anywhere," said School Board Chairman Frank K. Wilson. "The only thing that's going to work is to have quality schools."
This emphasis is most likely to please Hispanic parents who have expressed concerns that their children would have to bear the burden of any redistribution of pupils. It also pleased Paul Wireman, principal of Key Elementary School, where about 40 percent of the pupils are in intensive English-language courses.
"There's a real challenge there for us and a real opportunity," said Wireman, who is hoping the school's English-Spanish Immersion Program will be expanded into Key's magnet program.
About 18 percent of the county's elementary pupils and 11 percent of secondary students are enrolled in intensive English-language courses.
Glencarlyn and Barrett elementary schools, with 48 and 39 percent of their pupils in English courses respectively, would also be asked to develop magnet programs. About $230,000 is earmarked over two years to establish magnet programs. An additional $160,000 would go toward transporting pupils attending magnet programs and pupils affected by boundary changes.
Other school districts in the Washington area are using magnet programs as a way of desegregating schools voluntarily. Historically, however, Arlington has resisted this idea out of a belief that any special programs developed should be available to all students, educators said.
Gosling said he anticipates "substantial community dialogue" on the proposal in coming months.
Other recommendations include:
Adjusting boundaries at Abingdon, Barcroft, Barrett, Glencarlyn, Randolph, Key and Taylor elementary schools, and at Swanson and Williamsburg intermediate schools.
Reopening Claremont Elementary School, which was closed in 1983. The school would become an extension of Abingdon Elementary and house two grades.
Extending special intensive language courses to kindergarten pupils.
The board will hold a first public hearing on the recommendations on April 14.