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Archive for Thursday, January 23, 1992

MEMBERS SAY SCHOOL PANEL GETTING SIDETRACKED

January 23, 1992

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Although a Lawrence school commission has set April 1 as a target date for recommending a way to meet secondary school space needs, some commission members are concerned that the group is constantly getting sidetracked from preliminary building proposals made last month.

The Commission on Mid-Level and High School Education met Wednesday. But rather than following the original agenda of elaborating on about a dozen building proposals that were made Dec. 18, the group focused on a Lawrence Chamber of Commerce survey and how special education services might affect the group's building proposal.

"We have gotten sidetracked from those (Dec. 18) proposals," said commission member Vicki Weseman.

Commission member Smitty Belcher expressed a similar concern at the Jan. 8 commission meeting, when the group discussed teachers' views of middle schools rather than the building proposals.

"We had some suggestions on the floor . . . that I thought were very valid," Belcher said. "Now I'm trying to figure out what we did with those suggestions."

COMMISSION Vice Chairman Tom Murray said that while the commission shouldn't overlook any issues, the group should try to make the April 1 deadline. He said the seven months between then and a November bond issue election would be needed to give the Lawrence school board time to discuss the commission's recommendation and to adequately explain a final proposal to the public.

"We are under somewhat of a time crunch," Murray said.

Commission member Barb Forbes, who is a speech and language pathologist at Deerfield School, said she was concerned about how the trend of mainstreaming students with disabilities into regular classrooms could affect any building proposal the group might make.

Commission member Phil McKnight, professor of curriculum and instruction at Kansas University, said the trend "has a profound impact on space."

CHAIRMAN Bob Johnson Sr. agreed, but he questioned whether the commission would need to be concerned with that issue in making its recommendation. He said meeting the physical needs of special education students will need to be done at all schools, not just new secondary facilities.

"That is an annual capital outlay that the board is going to have to deal with," Johnson said.

The commission decided to invite Don Herbel, the district's director of special education, to speak on the issue at the commission's next meeting on Wednesday.

The commission also discussed a recent Chamber of Commerce survey. One question asked members what should be done about Lawrence secondary school facilities.

Only 7 percent of respondents said the community should "do nothing . . . our current facilities are, and will be, adequate."

WHILE NONE of three building proposals in the survey garnered more than 50 percent support, 89 percent of respondents supported the development of "a long-range plan which takes into account the growing student population and the space needs for the next 20-25 years."

Murray noted that only 33 percent of survey respondents supported converting the present three-year high school to a four-year high school (for grades 9-12) and building a second four-year high school, which is the same proposal Lawrence voters defeated in 1990.

Johnson said that while the survey might have some statistical significance, "it isn't entirely representative of the voting populous in this community."

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