Fairfax County school officals said last night they plan to close only one school this year because of declining enrollment. Seven were closed last year, prompting an outpouring of outrage from both parents and politicians.
School administrations proposed that five elementary schools in Vienna be studied with a view to closing one. The school board is to make a decision next May. The schools under study are Vienna, Cedar Lane, Cunningham Park, Louise Archer and Marshall Road elementaries.
The scope of the proposal, made at a board meeting at Robinson Secondary School, represents a marked departure from last year's study that led to the seven closings following hundreds of community meetings and an acrimonious series of public hearings.
Within a few weeks of last spring's final vote on school closings, the rapid resignations of three board members who had supported the closings. In addition, three citizen groups filed law suits challenging the school board's authority to close schools and alleging the board engaged in secret meetings to arrive at their decision. All court challenges were lost.
School officials at last night's meeting did not refer to last year's controversy, simply explaining that only one school would have to be closed this year.
A letter read by Board Chairman Ann P. Kahn from the PTA presidents of Cedar Lane and Cunningham Park schools, cast an air of uncertainty about whether a study would be needed at all this year. In the communique, the representatives of the two targeted schools said they would investigate a merger of their student bodies rather than endure a school closing procedure.
In stark contrast to the outrage usually surrounding school closings, the board listened silently as Janice Tullis, PTA president at the Westmore Elementary School in Fairfax -- a school not being considered for closing -- asked for consideration of closing a Fairfax City school because of under enrollment there.
"If schools need to be closed . . . then so be it," Tullis told the board.