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Archive for Thursday, January 9, 1992

GROUP SETS DEADLINE FOR LONG-RANGE SCHOOL PLAN

January 9, 1992

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A Lawrence school commission got sidetracked Wednesday from discussing possible new school facilities when the issue of teachers' views on middle schools arose.

However, the Commission on Mid-Level and High School Education did set April 1 as its target date for developing a long-range facilities plan for Lawrence secondary schools.

"We need to see the light at the end of the tunnel in order to get there," said commission member Graham Bailey, who suggested it was time for the group to set a target date. The commission first met in December 1990, one month after voters defeated a proposed bond issue to build a second high school.

AT ITS Dec. 18 meeting, the commission discussed about a dozen preliminary proposals for expanding the district's secondary school facilities. On Wednesday, former school board member Gary Condra spoke to the commission about his proposal for meeting secondary school space needs.

Condra's proposal, which he referred to as the "3-2-1 Plan," calls for three middle schools for grades seven and eight, two mid-high schools for grades nine and 10 and one senior high school for grades 11 and 12.

Condra, who is not a member of the commission, said his proposal combines advantages and eliminates disadvantages of two previous plans: the 1990 bond issue proposal for two four-year high schools and a 1988 committee recommendation for one mid-high for grades nine and 10 and a senior high for grades 11 and 12.

CONDRA SAID his plan:

Removes ninth-graders from junior high school but does not place them with the considerably older high school seniors.

Retains Lawrence High School as a single Class 6A school at the 11th- and 12th-grade level, allowing the school to continue competing with other Class 6A schools.

Avoids split loyalties in the community that could arise with two four-year high schools.

Avoids the need to build two new gymnasiums and a new indoor swimming pool, which would be needed at a second high school to make it "equal" to the present high school.

CONDRA ADDED that enrollment at the grade nine and 10 mid-high schools could be determined by student choice rather than geographical boundaries if each school were to have a different "magnet" theme.

After Condra's presentation, rather than continuing the discussion of secondary school facilities, the commission turned its attention to a survey of Lawrence junior high school teachers, librarians, counselors and other certified staff members.

Those at Central and West junior high schools were asked by commission members the question, "Do you favor moving to the middle school philosophy in the Lawrence Public Schools?" Faculty at South Junior High School were asked, "Do you favor middle schools over junior highs?"

A TOTAL of 103 faculty answered "yes" in the survey, and 39 respondents answered "no." About 12 faculty did not respond, and two were reported to be undecided. The teachers were allowed to give their responses anonymously.

Many commission members were bothered by the fact that the same question wasn't asked of all the teachers. Others were concerned about some accompanying comments.

For example, one person who responded "yes" specified wanting ninth-graders to be kept at the middle school level. Another who voted "yes" opposed having sixth-graders at the middle school level. The commission on most occasions has discussed a middle school for either grades seven and eight or grades six through eight.

Commission member Renee Karr said that while the teachers' responses indicate a support for middle schools, "it's based on what their idea of the middle school philosophy is."

ALTHOUGH commissioners agreed that the statistical significance of the survey is questionable, many also agreed with Hal Crady, commission member, who said, "I like the survey for what it tells me."

Middle schools proponents say that, unlike junior high schools, middle schools provide a gradual transition from the one-room setting of grade schools to the multiroom setting of high schools, largely because middle school students spend the whole year with the same group of peers and teachers.

The commission will next meet on Jan. 22, when it will resume its discussion of facilities proposals.

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