A Lawrence school board member is concerned that multi-age grouping could appear in schools districtwide.
If 10 birds are sitting on a telephone line and somebody shoots one, how many birds are left?
None, the old riddle goes, because the blare of the shotgun scared the other birds away.
If sixth-graders are moved out of elementary schools to create more space, how many grades are left at the elementary level?
None, a Lawrence school board member contends, because grade levels would be eliminated to allow greater flexibility in filling the empty space.
That was the concern of board member Tom Murray on Monday during a report from the Elementary School Facilities Task Force.
The task force suggested in 1992 that if sixth-graders were moved out of elementary schools, it really wouldn't increase the amount of time before enrollment growth required the construction of another elementary school.
The move might free up a couple rooms for different uses at a school, task force members said. However, if students were still divided into kindergarten through fifth grade and the teacher-pupil ratio remained the same, the school's capacity for those grades wouldn't change.
On Monday, task force chairman Mike Heffner offered a different analysis. He said moving sixth-graders out of grade schools and into junior highs or middle schools could push back the need to build a new grade school by five years or more.
Murray said he didn't understand the task force's new stance, unless the district was planning to adopt multi-age grouping.
Currently used at Riverside and New York schools, multi-age grouping differs from combination classes in that teachers pay less attention to the grade levels of students and more attention to the students' ability levels.
Murray said he has problems with multi-age grouping. He said some teachers don't like the system either.
"They don't want to be shoved like cattle into this kind of situation," he said.
Lawrence School Supt. Al Azinger said it was not his intention to put multi-age grouping in every school. However, Azinger said, if a school's staff and parents decide it is the best way to teach, the school should be allowed to implement multi-age grouping.
Board member Mary Loveland pointed out that schools sometimes have heavy enrollment in just one or two grades and must create extra class sections. In those cases, moving sixth-graders could provide room for those classes and delay the need for a new grade school.
Heffner said the task force wasn't recommending moving sixth-graders but simply reporting possible results of such a move.