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Archive for Thursday, January 30, 1992

SCHOOL PANEL ADDRESSES ACCESSIBILITY

January 30, 1992

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A Lawrence school commission working to develop a solution for secondary school space needs turned its attention Wednesday to the effects on school building uses by changes in special education and technology.

The Commission on Mid-Level and High School Education heard from Don Herbel, the district's director for special services, and Norma Harrod, who was the district's media coordinator for many years before retiring last year.

Herbel said that, presently, Lawrence elementary students with severe disabilities or other exceptional needs are "clustered" at Hillcrest and Cordley schools.

However, under a new school accreditation system being developed by the state, districts will be encouraged to send students with disabilities to their "neighborhood" schools. There also will be a greater emphasis on serving students with disabilities in the regular classroom.

"THE REMOVAL from the regular classroom or the removal from the home school would be based on the students' individual educational needs and not just what's the cheapest way to serve them," Herbel said.

Herbel said students would be placed on a case-by-case basis and taught in the regular classroom only if that environment was suited for them. He said each school might develop a resource room where exceptional students could spend part of the day learning such things as self-help skills.

"We'd do that in lieu of moving everybody to one school like we do now," he said.

Commission Vice Chairman Tom Murray said commission members might keep in mind that, with facilities improvements needed to make schools accessible, "this whole thing is going to cost the school district quite a bit of money at some point."

HARROD indicated that the district also will need to make considerable expenditures if it hopes to catch up in technology. She said the district is "woefully behind" other schools in using technology.

"We have a '50s mentality in this school district" and in this community, Harrod said. "People can't think past the way buildings have always been."

Harrod showed a videotape of a student in a Michigan school district who receives his daily school assignments at home via computer. The student also uses a computer to learn which hours are available for him to use the school's media lab.

"The building is being used all the time, but it is not being used by the same kids all the time," Harrod pointed out. She added that a school "should be a community center. It should be accessible to the community 24 hours a day."

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