Lawrence school board members heard a mix of support, questions and concerns from parents Thursday about moving ninth-graders into the district’s two high schools.
“My wife and I both were in a four-grade high school, and we feel it’s a good thing,” said Shawn Brockway, a parent of two students in the Lawrence district. “Freshmen should be in high school with the high schoolers.”
Chief Academic Officer Kim Bodensteiner said administrators believe the district has enough space at the district’s two high schools to move ninth-graders up. She says research also indicates an earlier high school start leads to a lower dropout rate.
But Sam Rabiola, a ninth-grade parent, said he has concerns about the district having enough room for four grades each at Lawrence and Free State high schools. Rabiola taught at the crowded LHS before the district opened Free State in 1997 to free up space.
“Literally, you were cheek-to-jowl surrounded by people, and not everyone can do well in that environment,” said Rabiola, a Free State English teacher who came to the forum as a parent and not to represent the school’s staff.
He said the district would need to do something with expanding space at the high schools for four grades because it closed the alternative high school years ago and that schools today need more classroom space, like for special education.
“There are more demands for space that help all students be successful,” Rabiola said.
About 25 parents and members of the public attended the meeting at Free State High School. They met in small groups with board members and administrators and discussed different topics about the shift. Board members are considering the change for the 2011-2012 school year.
Board President Scott Morgan said participants in the discussion seemed to be open to move but also supportive of the district’s current setup.
“They were concerned about losing what we have, but they were also excited about the opportunities we are opening up,” Morgan said.
A second ninth-grade forum will be from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lawrence High School, 1901 La. The district plans to soon offer four more forums in coming weeks at the four junior high schools about the possibility of moving sixth-graders into middle schools with seventh- and eighth-graders.