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Archive for Monday, January 20, 1992

OFFICIAL SAYS ROLE OF SCHOOLS WILL EXPAND

January 20, 1992

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Schools of the future will be built differently because they'll be serving the community in new ways: Social services will be housed in the schools, large groups of students will be taught via television and disabled students will be expected to attend the school in their neighborhood.

That's the view of Lawrence School Supt. Dan Neuenswander. In an interview last week, Neuenswander expounded on the changes he envisions for public schools, "all of which have ramifications for facilities."

"Since we know that all kids can learn and learn well, given time, we're going to have to give them time, and that means a significantly extended school year and an extended school day for many kids," Neuenswander said. "This isn't punishment. This is to make sure kids have time to learn all the things we know they can learn."

Neuenswander said that under the present system in which all students attend school for a set number of days, "It's the calendar that determines what you learn, instead of the district standards."

HE SAID that if many students are attending into summer months, then air conditioning will be a must for all school buildings.

Another change, Neuenswander said, is that "schools will become the hub of the community again. I think family services will be headquartered in the school because that's where the kids are and that's where the families are who need to be served."

He said such things as health services, Social and Rehabilitation Services, recreation and adult education could be housed at public schools.

"We cannot afford to have agencies working in isolation," Neuenswander said.

Charline Freitag, director of the Community Children's Center Head Start program, agrees. Head Start is a federally funded preschool program for children from low-income families.

Freitag said a lack of transportation is a big reason many families can't be served by the local Head Start program, which is housed at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt. She said the program would need an additional $28,000 annually to provide transportation for all 78 students that it presently serves.

BECAUSE THE district already does extensive busing, "I think it would be nice to have another Head Start program in the school district," Freitag said.

Vicki Weseman, a teacher at Central Junior High School and a member of the district's Commission on Mid-Level and High School Education, also expects schools to provide a wider range of services.

During a commission discussion of possible new secondary school facilities, Weseman said that by converting Lawrence High School to a smaller junior high school, space would be freed up at the facility for various types of student support services. Her proposal called for building new high school facilities elsewhere.

Also in the future, Neuenswander said, "Technology is going to play a bigger part in students' education and at an earlier age."

He said economic constraints could bring about an occasional deviation from the traditional instructional model of "one teacher-one classroom."

For example, a lecturer could speak simultaneously to social studies classes at all three junior high schools via interactive video, which allows for two-way communication between the speaker and the class.

Also, Neuenswander said, if the district decides to begin teaching foreign language at the elementary level, it would be less expensive to use interactive video than to have a foreign language teacher at each building.

ANOTHER CHANGE, Neuenswander said, is that "the time is fast approaching when all students will attend schools with their peers in their particular neighborhood, regardless of their disability."

Presently, all Lawrence elementary students with severe or mild disabilities attend Hillcrest School, and most students with moderate disabilities attend Cordley School.

Obviously, Neuenswander said, if students with disabilities are going to attend their neighborhood school, then classrooms will have to be properly equipped, and all schools will need to be made accessible to students with disabilities.

With public schools expected to change so dramatically, Neuenswander said, flexibility should be a big part of any new school facilities the district builds, especially because those buildings probably will be in use for 50-75 years.

"It makes no sense to not build them with some vision," he said.

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