The transition to two high schools goes smoothly for Lawrence students.
Una Ramey has the best of both worlds. She attends Lawrence High School in the morning and heads to Free State High School for her afternoon classes.
As part of the Business Professionals of America club, which is only offered at Free State, Ramey had the luxury of keeping one foot in Lawrence High School and stepping through the doors of the new high school this year.
``I get to have my cake and eat it, too,'' Ramey said.
As a senior, Ramey has experienced life in a one high school town that this year was divided in two.
The change has been good, Ramey said.
``I like it a lot,'' she said. ``It's a lot less crowded and there's a lot less tension in the halls.''
Most students aren't as fortunate as Ramey. When Free State High opened in August most students were assigned to one of the two schools. The transition was easier than expected, Free State senior Amy Hill said.
``Actually, I kind of like it better,'' she said. ``You get to know more of your classmates so you know more people when you graduate.''
For Aaron Flowers, also a Free State senior, the switch to a new school gave him a chance to start over.
``I didn't really hang out with a lot of people last year, and now I have more friends, more people I can count on,'' he said. ``This has been pretty easy for me.''
Free State senior Carlos Ramirez agreed.
``You notice the class size,'' he said. ``Basically, you get more attention from the teachers.''
Ramirez still keeps in touch with his friends who are across town at Lawrence High School.
``I call them and we get together on weekends to play ball,'' he said.
Even so, Ramirez said he sees the competitive spirit rising up in both schools.
``You could kind of see a rivalry in sports this year,'' he said. ``In 10 or 20 years it will be big.''
That's not necessarily a negative thing. At the Project Graduation party, Ramirez will celebrate with some of the same students who played hoops opposite him this year.
``You've basically got friends at all three schools (including Lawrence Alternative High School) so it shouldn't be weird,'' he said.
Some Lawrence High students, such as Anne Henning, disagree.
``I think it will be weird,'' she said. ``You have two new groups of people trying to hang out.''
Except for less congestion in the halls, Henning said she hasn't really noticed a difference at Lawrence High School with part of last year's population missing.
``The halls are a little less crowded,'' she said.
The transition has been easiest on underclassmen, such as sophomores Robert Westbrook and Daniel Speicher.
They've heard how it was in the past.
``It's less stressful and the classes are better,'' Westbrook said.
Speicher said the addition of another high school will help Lawrence.
``There are usually two high schools in other towns so it's not that unusual,'' he said.
The two schools will continue to grow, together and apart. Free State High School is not yet filled to capacity and the dynamics of both schools will change as the shifting populations get settled.
It's a venture that Free State High School English and theater teacher Jeannette Bonjour looks forward to. She taught at Lawrence High School last year and moved to Free State at the beginning of the 1997-98 school year.
``So much of the faculty has been really supportive of one another,'' she said. ``It's like, `OK, we're all part of something new. We're going to do this.'''
By the 1999-2000 school year, the change will be complete, with this year's sophomores graduating from the same high school where they started.
-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.