Some people want Lawrence to be forever a one-high school town. Others think a third high school should not be far down the road. But if people are truly interested in meeting the needs of Lawrence secondary students, they are going to have seek a middle ground.
That was one message of Tom Murray, vice chairman of the Commission on Mid-Level and High School Education, when he spoke this morning at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's "Good Morning, Lawrence" series. About 90 people attended the program at the Lawrence Holidome, where Murray spoke about the progress of the school commission.
The group began meeting in December 1990, a month after Lawrence school district voters defeated a proposed bond issue for building a second high school. The commission has targeted April 1 as the date for recommending a long-range plan for the district's secondary school facilities.
"It's a diverse group, and the points of view are not at all homogeneous," Murray said of the 26-member commission. "If we're going to meet the needs of kids . . . everyone who has strong feelings on this is going to have to compromise his or her feelings to some extent."
MURRAY, who was elected to the Lawrence school board after the 1990 bond issue, said the commission members do agree on some items.
"No one believes we do not have a crisis situation, at the junior high schools at least," Murray said. He said the capacity enrollment at the junior high schools eventually will translate into heavier enrollment at the high school level, and "everyone agrees that now is the time that something needs to be done."
Murray said commission members have agreed on enrollment growth projections. He said the group also has spent considerable time discussing middle school philosophy, which would have been adopted if the 1990 bond issue had passed.
Middle school 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 a smaller group of peers and teachers.
MURRAY said the common planning time found in middle schools allows teachers to confer with each other on how best to meet the needs of individual students. Murray, an attorney, likened the arrangement to a law firm, in which an attorney can get input from his colleagues on how to best represent a client.
However, Murray said, some argue that middle schools are more concerned about nurturing students and taking a "pat'em on the head" approach instead of challenging students.
But again, Murray said, "The question probably isn't who's right and who's wrong. . . . Both sides on this issue are going to have to compromise."
Some preliminary proposals by commission members involve employing both middle schools and junior high schools in the district.
This morning's program was sponsored by Allen Press.