Prince George's County officials have drawn up a desegragation proposal to increase dramatcally the number of elementary school students who will attend school in their own neighborhood schools with majority black enrollments.
The proposal would increase by one third - to 95 per cent - the number of elementary students in their neighborhood schools. Eleven-thousand children who are now bused would be able to walk to school if the county Board of Education adopts the proposal.
Court approval would also be required since the new student distribution would deviate form the 1973 court-ordered busing plan followed by the county for four years.
Eleven schools would also be closed under this proposal, a move that School Supt. Edward J. Feeney said would eliminate the need to close any more schools in the future.
Since the desegregation order was issued by the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, the county's black student enrollment has increased from 28 per cent to 42.6 per cent of the total.
At the same time, school officials said, the county's residential areas have become more integrated $99[WORD ILLEGIBLE] advantage of this as well as [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the amount of busing, the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Board of Education last year [WORD ILLEGIBLE] for the feasibility study that was [WORD ILLEGIBLE] veiled yesterday albeit in an incomplete form. The full study will[WORD ILLEGIBLE] presented to the board on Dec. 15.
"I wouldn't have dreamed of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] study four years ago," said Paul [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Nussbaum, attorney for the board. "This takes advantage of the (residential) integration."
Because of the dramatic increase [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the number of black students in [WORD ILLEGIBLE] county school system, 62 of the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] elementary schools this year had [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] goals of desegregation was to remove our isolation, then his study could mean desegregation was an exercise in futility".
The proposal is an attempt to undo resegregation of the county school system that has occurred since the original busing order, officials said.
Under the proposal, the distance any student now travels would be reduced to an average of 3 miles, with some 100 students traveling 6 miles.
Prince George's County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr. immediately expressed confidence in the ability of the school board and officials to bring about a "new stability in the county" with the reduction in busing.
However, school board member Maureen K. Steinecke cautioned that a new round of school transfers might cause an upheaval.
"We had 33,000 students transferred to different schools in 1973 (due to the court order)," she said. "I'm really concerned about the citizenry's view of yet another upheaval. It has to be made crystal clear that our spirit is to bring quality education to all students."
School board member Sue V. Mills, who drafted the original resolution for the study, and has remained an opponent of busing for desegregation, applauded the study as "beautiful . . . it is going to bring stability to our county."
Stability has come to mean an end to "white flight" for many of the busing opponents. Nussbaum said the study is aimed at allowing all families - black and white - to buy a home in Prince George's and know that their children will attend a neighborhood school.
"I'm worried about the black GS-16 who is buying his home in Gaithersburg or Falls Church because of what he has heard about Prince George's," Nussbaum said.
The "general and total support of the community is essential, said Nussbaum. "I won't go to court until there is that support. I would talk to the attorneys of the original litigants (in the suit and that led to the court order) and we won't go in until an agreement is reached," Nussbaum said.
I'd like to think that Prince George's County has reached a point where . . . there is as much as absence of bias or prejudice as can be humanly expected. I think both black and white families want this," Nussbaum said.