The makeup of Lawrence’s schools will be different starting in 2011-2012.
School board members voted unanimously Monday night to move ninth-graders into the district’s two high schools and sixth-graders from elementary schools into middle schools with seventh- and eighth-graders.
“It has worked elsewhere. Fundamentally, it appears it will work extremely well here,” board member Mark Bradford said.
Board members followed the recommendation from administrators, who said it would give students access to more courses and activities at each level and help improve the district’s dropout rate. About 90 percent of 75 sixth-grade staff members who responded to a survey also supported the move to middle schools.
“The primary reason for me to support this is academic and what I see as the best way to provide our curriculum,” board member Mary Loveland said.
Even though they would still be in junior high schools next school year, ninth-graders will be able to participate in athletics at the high schools in the fall. That move saves the district an estimated $150,000.
The district will take one year to plan the changes, said chief academic officer Kim Bodensteiner, particularly because there are different models for how to set up middle schools. On Monday, board members urged community members to stay involved during planning stages in the next year.
Before voting, board members listened to concerns from nine parents and students who said the current setup was working.
“I am underwhelmed by the data supporting the relationship between configuration and academic achievement,” parent Michael Murray said.
Others said the change could magnify pressure to close elementary schools because it would reduce their enrollment.
Scott Morgan, the board’s president, said a community task force would already be studying the district’s elementaries, which could include options like making New York School into a magnet school.
Superintendent Rick Doll said board members initially asked administrators to investigate the change for its academic benefits and before this year’s budget crisis. “We think it is good for kids and that educationally it is the right thing to do,” he said. “We can work through the political repercussions, and we have plans in place.”