A new worry looms over the world of Haywood Isaac, a ninth-grader who already feels under siege in his Southeast Washington neighborhood where he says drug lords kill over a penny debt.

The lanky 15-year-old wonders now whether he should go to shopping centers, near any federal buildings, or even to his home close to the Capitol, the Navy Yard and Marine barracks.

"If they bomb any of these places, we'll get the worst of it," Isaac said, chugging down chocolate milk in the cafeteria table of Hine Junior High School on Capitol Hill. "If I hear anything go 'Boom,' I'm hopping in a cab and going to my uncle's house on Benning Road."

In Washington area schools yesterday, the crucial preoccupation of the day was war. The heated arguments, the objections, the anxious questions -- all were played out in classrooms. Blaring television sets, tuned to the coverage of the war, became the teachers' substitutes.

At some schools, students said they were so disturbed about the war threat that they wanted to stay home. In at least one Northwest Washington school, Lafayette Elementary, a principal attributed the lower-than-average attendance rate partly to fears about the war in the gulf.

At DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, more than a dozen students in the first two hours of school talked to counselors about their fears, and at Frederick Douglass High School in Prince George's County, which has many students whose parents are stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, several students came into the guidance counselor's office weeping, officials said.

Like those of adults, the opinions of students were sharply divided as teachers scrambled to fashion lessons around the Persian Gulf war.

At Montgomery Blair High School, the views of students in one honors social studies class were as varied yesterday as the Silver Spring school's ethnically diverse student body of 2,000.

"No one who is rational is in favor of war," said Charlotte Williams, who argued that one thing she learned from her lessons in history is that appeasement does not work. "Look at World War II," she said. "If we give in to Saddam Hussein and give him Kuwait, he would just go on just as Hitler did."

"I'm tired of comparisons to World War II," countered Justine Barron. She said that unlike Hitler, Hussein has been contained, the United Nations has opposed him and nothing is to be gained from this war.

Robbie Peckerar was simply confused. "Saddam Hussein is a dictator. He moved into a helpless country and took it over. He tortures his own people . . . . But I'm against the war."

The students' fear was apparent in their voices, in the questions they asked of their teachers, again and again. If the bombs started falling, would they fall near them? How many deaths have been caused by the war?

The possibility of a military draft weighed heavy on the minds of students at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George's County, particularly among seniors.

"I'll be 18 on the 30th of this month, and I do not want to go to war to fight," said senior Hank Williams, who said he had considered enlisting in the military before war broke out to take advantage of the "educational opportunities."

Williams was one of 14 students in his history class of 20 who said they considered going into the service prior to the war. Yesterday only two students in the class, both girls, said they still planned to enlist.

Overall, staff members and students throughout Roosevelt said they supported the troops. Teachers wore buttons and yellow and red, white and blue ribbons to show their support for the war effort. Some students wore patriotic pins, red, white and blue clothing or surplus military fatigues.

A student who painted a peace sign on her arm had to explain time and time again that she was supporting a peaceful settlement to the conflict, rather than showing disdain for the troops.

"There are people who say we whould not be fighting for oil, yet they want to drive cars as soon as they turn 16," said freshman Jason Stojka. "Don't they understand that they need gas to drive?"

Between studying for semester exams at Gar-Field High School in Prince William County, where many students have friends or relatives in the gulf, tight groups of students hashed out the pros and cons of war and its harsh reality.

"I had heard about the Vietnam War but I never thought I would see one," said Shawn Bowen, 17. "I couldn't believe it when I heard about the war."

"I'm really frightened," said Nicole Hamilton, 16. "If we go to war, we can't come out of it with any kind of peaceful resolution because {Hussein} is crazy."