Archive for Sunday, January 24, 2010

District ponders moving ninth-graders to high school

Lawrence High School technology teacher Charlie Lauts, left, works in an introductory course Tuesday with Keenan Wycoff, a sophomore. Lauts believes moving ninth-graders to the high school would especially help students going down career and technical education paths.

Lawrence High School technology teacher Charlie Lauts, left, works in an introductory course Tuesday with Keenan Wycoff, a sophomore. Lauts believes moving ninth-graders to the high school would especially help students going down career and technical education paths.

January 24, 2010


Upcoming discussion

The Lawrence school board will discuss school reconfiguration at its 7 p.m. meeting Monday at 110 McDonald Drive.

Lawrence High School career and technical education teacher Charlie Lauts wants ninth-graders in her classes.

It will help enrollment for elective classes and help students fit in all the requirements they need for graduation, she said. It will also help those students who are going down the career and technical education pathways, which have been recently changed by the state and have plans that start in ninth grade.

Lawrence ninth-graders attend the city’s junior high schools rather than high school. “Having them here in high school to start those (classes) and give them an extra year to complete a pathway is a total advantage at our end of the world,” Lauts said.

Reconfiguration, or moving grade levels to different buildings, has focused on moving sixth-graders to a middle school with seventh and eighth grades, and moving ninth-graders to the high schools. The Lawrence school board is set to get the pros and cons of changing the system from district administration at its meeting Monday.

As for Lauts’ students, some of them are worried about squeezing another class in the building.

“We have teachers patrolling hallways to make sure kids keep moving because otherwise you can’t get through,” senior Josh Russell said. “You add another 150, 200 kids, there’s no way we’re going to be able to move around the school.”

But Lauts has seen a packed house before.

“I taught here in the mid-’90s when there were almost 1,800 kids here,” Lauts said. “It was a zoo, but we all survived.”

Some teens see the advantages of a four-year high school.

“I think there’s a lot more freedom in high school, and I think as a freshman you should be a part of that,” sophomore Cameron Solko said. “But I don’t think we’re fully mature enough to handle high school yet.”

At Quail Run School, sixth-graders change classrooms and have multiple teachers in order to prepare them for junior high.

“They handle it beautifully,” sixth-grade teacher Barb Thompson said. “They really like it because they feel more grown-up. They also need to be responsible for their materials and their work, and this makes them more responsible.”

While Thompson believes sixth-graders are ready for a middle school environment, it needs to stay true to how a six-through-eight building should be set up.

“They’re in teams and they have core teachers and the teachers are all aware of them and know them as individuals,” Thompson said. “I would not want to see sixth-graders moved up to the junior high-type situation.”

Her students are torn about moving to a middle school system, even though the Lawrence district is the only one in the state that still runs seventh- through ninth-grade junior high schools.

“I’d rather be in middle school because then you have lockers and more space and you’re better prepared for seventh and eighth grade,” said sixth-grader Rebecca Moran.

But classmate Josh Kallenbach would rather keep sixth grade in elementary buildings.

“(Junior highs) have a lot of larger kids that are more mature than you,” Josh said. “You need another year to mature before you go.”

LHS math department Chairwoman Pam Fangohr isn’t necessarily against adding ninth-graders but wants to make sure such a move is carefully planned before it’s implemented.

“I think there’s really some facility issues and some manipulation of what would the math classes look like — where would we go on our plan period?” Fangohr said. “We’re sure hoping that if they do make a move like this, it’s really well thought out.”

The school board will hear from staff about reconfiguration — including cost savings and the possibility of making the change next fall — during its Monday meeting.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.


sad_lawrencian 8 years, 5 months ago

I was genuinely surprised when I moved to Lawrence in 2008 and found out that 9th graders are still middle-school students here. Everywhere else I've ever lived, including other Kansas towns, they are considered to be high school students; they attend classes at normal high schools with 10th through 12th graders. It's time for Lawrence to get with the program.

youngjayhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

The board should move 6th grade to middle school and 9th grade to high school; it is an educationally and financially sound solution. Students, educators, and tax payers would benefit from the moves. Quit dawdling, do it ASAP for the 2010-11 school year. Move on!

Mr_Moderate 8 years, 5 months ago

If you want to save on taxes, don't close our neighborhood schools. The amount of state money (and thus the amount of your tax dollars) given to the District is based on the number of students in the district, not the number of schools. If Lawrence closes elementary schools now, the amount of state aid (your tax dollars) given to the district will remain the same. But the remaining schools will be overcrowded. Literally. Then, in a couple of years the School Board will float a bond to build a new elementary school to relieve the overcrowding. That bond will add directly to your local taxes. The short of it: Keeping already-built schools open does not affect your tax burden, because those schools have already been paid for. Closing old schools—and then building new ones, the inevitable result—adds to your tax burden.

John Hamm 8 years, 5 months ago

"the Lawrence district is the only one in the state that still runs seventh- through ninth-grade junior high schools" 'nuff said - another educational experiment that failed. Quit playing around with how and start to teach again!

Randall Barnes 8 years, 5 months ago


waswade 8 years, 5 months ago

The high schools are so full they are dealing with issues of discipline, space and order. Some classes have students standing. I do not care if Lawrence is the only one in the state with junior high's. Administration needs to think about student outcomes and success not money and numbers.

kugrad 8 years, 5 months ago

2 points

  1. Lawrence is NOT the only district in the state that still has Jr. Highs that are 7-9. This doesn't mean I don't think it is a good idea to make the switch, I do, but I just want to keep the info factual.

  2. Any $ savings from this switch will be slight. It is not a big cost-saver. It was proposed as a "revenue neutral" action done for other reasons than cost savings. So, don't expect some significant cost savings, there won't be one.

Jonathan Kealing 8 years, 5 months ago


Rick Doll told us that Lawrence IS in fact the last school district with 7-9 junior highs. I know there's a couple on the Missouri side of Kansas City, but do you have a specific example from Kansas?

Jonathan Kealing Online editor

mom_of_three 8 years, 5 months ago

YOu would not have to change the names. I have heard of junior highs with 6-8 graders. And if we are not the last high school, then we are one of the last and one of the biggest. When my hometown did it 25+ years ago (5A school district) we were told then we were one of the last. If 9th grade is on high school transcripts, then the students should be at the high school, and have more access to high school classes.

cato_the_elder 8 years, 5 months ago

If the school board does this, the push for a third high school will begin almost immediately. Wake up, taxpayers. There's a reason that certain school board members are behind this, and that reason is building a third high school. If ninth graders are housed in our present junior high school configuration, which has served us very well for many years, we won't need a third high school for 25 years. Get real, and tell school board members to get some common sense.

momof2many 8 years, 5 months ago


My hometown highschool (Marysville, KS) is still a junior high/high school system.

Jonathan Kealing 8 years, 5 months ago


Thanks for the tip. I checked out their Web site and it looks like for academic purposes they're classifying 9th grade as high school, instead of junior high:|High%20School>>Academics

But I also see that the junior and senior high school are joined, so I imagine it could be a weird combination situation.

Jonathan Kealing Online editor

penguin 8 years, 5 months ago

Seriously how can either of the HS buildings be bursting at the seams? I was a sub a few years back and each building did not appear to be too bad at all. Also if the numbers the district are putting out are correct the high school enrollment has been down each of the last few years.

Also if there was a proposal for a third high school it's likely none would remain a 6A. Given that each decision in this town involves athletics in any high school move, it seems unlikely to happen.

tomatogrower 8 years, 5 months ago

barrypenders (Anonymous) says… Lawrence is on the cutting edge of government schooling. They don't like the old fashioned ways of 4 grades in High School like all other school districts have. One room schools went out of style when school busing was demanded.

Stimulus, Passe' Scrhooling, and Posercare live unprecedented

Darwin bless us all

Oh Barry, I usually just pass over your posts, because they are usually just uninformed, ignorant babble. But having 4 classes at a high school is really a new change. Lawrence is behind all the other schools in changing to the middle school concept. Lawrence presently is using the old fashioned way. Of course you could be trying to be sarcastic, but instead you just come across as being an uneducated person.

kugrad 8 years, 5 months ago

Jonathan It could be that some changed very recently, but some of my co-workers have talked about district(s) in the Manhattan area that were not changed over. I could be wrong, if I am, thanks for the correction. I've been to 3 Dr. Doll presentations lately, and, although I find him as truthful as one can be while still making a political pitch, he does occasionally make a mistake as do I. Last year, I was under the impression we were not the last. Maybe we are now and I haven't kept up.

Jonathan Kealing 8 years, 5 months ago


Believe me, I agree completely. We all make mistakes, so that's why I want to track them down if we do. Hence why I checked the Marysville example given. If you do have a specific example, let me know. If we're wrong, we'll gladly correct ourselves.

Jonathan Kealing

woxy 8 years, 5 months ago

Olathe school district is currently 7-8-9 as junior high this year. They have designated next year for the change. It's a technicalty, but one that makes the statement in the story false. It's possible there are other schools in Kansas, but just this one instance makes the statement, as worded, false.

Perhaps the Olathe school district would be a good source of information for our administration, to see what challenges they are facing making these changes and how they are being handled.

FTR, I am for the change.

KS 8 years, 5 months ago

This is a classic example of someone in the school district trying to justify their job. I see nothing wrong with elementary being K-6, middle school (junior high) 7-9 and high School being 10-12. It has worked for a long, long time and if it ain't broken, don't try to fix it.

jackson5 8 years, 5 months ago

Patton Jr. High, USD207. Admittedly, there are not many jr. highs left in KS but to me this repeated stretching of the truth (I, too, have heard him say it to full room of parents) is just another example of how the administration is playing fast and loose with the facts. If they can't get their facts straight on a verifable statement, how can we expect that they are not manipulating other information to get the answer they want with regard to school closings?

tomatogrower 8 years, 5 months ago

KS (Anonymous) says… This is a classic example of someone in the school district trying to justify their job. I see nothing wrong with elementary being K-6, middle school (junior high) 7-9 and high School being 10-12. It has worked for a long, long time and if it ain't broken, don't try to fix it.

Actually this would allow the district to run more efficiently. It would consolidate many programs and help save money. They could take some of the upper level math classes that are duplicated at the junior high and put them in the high school. Granted the down side would be that the class sizes would grow, and some teachers may be laid off, but we are in a budget crunch, and this might help.

shepdog 8 years, 5 months ago

Not to worry. They'll just bring back the wonderful portables!!!

kugrad 8 years, 5 months ago

Johnathan I checked on two places I had thought were still Jr. High and one changed within the last year or so, the other kept the name Jr. High (at least for one of the schools) but switched from 7-9, so it is essentially a middle school. I am wondering if there are not some middle schools in districts that still have 6th at elementary, so middle is just 7-8, which would add to the confusion. At any rate, my information was wrong and I stand corrected on that point.

Currahee 8 years, 5 months ago

I wonder if this is actually a cost cutting measure. It is akin to consolidating several sections of classes in college and having one massive lecture session.

But I'll let you decide what happens. FSHS and LHS might become more crowded, while jr highs become empty. If K-5 is also done, then the district can end up cutting teachers it doesn't need or have a higher teacher to student ratio, but given that the city is in need of a bit of coin I'll let you be to your own conclusions of what they might do.

WilburM 8 years, 5 months ago

  1. Why would current jr highs be empty? They would still have 3 grades.
  2. 9th graders' grades are part of their permanent high school record; this becomes much more clear to them if they are actually in high school.
  3. 9th grades could play varsity sports -- the Highland Park kid who hit several threes against LHS last night is a freshman. Obviously ready to compete as a 9th grader.

George_Braziller 8 years, 5 months ago

Something doesn't smell right here considering the timing of doing this while at the same time there are discussions and possibilities of closing elementary schools.

Moving 9th grade to the high school, and 6th to the junior high, while not a bad idea, seems more like an unspoken plan already made to move students out of the grade schools to justify closing some of them.

Escapee 8 years, 5 months ago

This one is a 'tuffie'. I think many, many 9th graders are ready for high school and might be better off there. Of course there will be those who are not...but will they ever be? More to this issue, is the fact that Lawrence is a college town and that LHS is practically 'on campus'. That exposure and the community these students reside more often than not the trigger for trouble.

I'm in favor of protecting kids from that particular environment as long as we can to let their little brains try to absorb the concept of 'independence' and the right to say 'no' to these more 'adult' choices that come right to their doorsteps. Maybe it's an impossible task given the surroundings.... Maybe it's not the avenue to take -- trying to 'protect' them from the inevitable....

At any rate, more thought should be given to the consequences than to just make this change for the sake of the almighty dollar. It may just cost more in the end....

KU_cynic 8 years, 5 months ago

What doesn't smell right to me is the headline "District Ponders . . ."

Despite an absence of open and transparent discussion about the junior high/high school reconfiguration, everyone who has a friend or relative working in the district tells me, "It's a done deal."

In theory, I'm for 4-year high schools. In practice, I doubt reconfiguration would be a silver bullet for well-known problems with our schools (below target test results at a few grade schools, dropout rates, drug and alcohol abuse, poor post-high school college retention and graduation rates, etc.). I also doubt that reconfiguration in USD 497 now will be budget neutral, and it may even be budget busting in a time of scarce resources.

In short, the current economic climate does not appear to provide a good context for experimentation, even well-intentioned experimentation.

penguin 8 years, 5 months ago

Olathe had to pass a bond issue to be able to move the 9th graders to the high school. Also they have been doing construction on some of the schools to make more room. The project at Olathe North looks pretty sizable, but I'm not sure if their other high schools have this same sort of additional space being added. However, their student population at that level is growing.

I fail to see how things are working so well in Lawrence in educational terms. LHS, if I remember right, didn't make AYP and the district as a whole is on improvement last time I heard.

Escapee 8 years, 5 months ago

KU_cynic, all good points.

Interesting comment about the 'done deal' rumor/factoid. So much of what goes on behind closed doors with this "public" school system is spun to the max before the "public" (outside the admin. walls) ever gets a whiff of it.

Pisses me. 'Liberals' and 'Democracy' are so not equal in their missions....

in123 8 years, 5 months ago

Here is how it plays out.

Move 6th grade to "middle" school. Elementary schools are under utilzed so a couple will be closed.

Junior highs, now middle schools, don't change.

High schools are over-crowded so we need a bond issue to expand.

Brilliant planning by the school district at the tax payers' expense.

workinghard 8 years, 5 months ago

Have LHS 9th and 10th grade, and Freestate 11th and 12th. The superintendant wants to build separate buildings next to the high schools for the 9th graders. So they want to shut down elementary schools to build new 9th grade buildings. Are you people catching on yet.

inklines 8 years, 5 months ago

Should the school district wait until the 2010 census figures are released so they can more accurately forecast long term facility and staff needs? Recent enrollment figures are showing a decrease in Lawrence school enrollments, most notably in the high schools. Moving ninth graders to the high schools would make better use of both staff and facilities. I attended school in an out-of-state district that was configured as K-6, elementary; 7-8, jr high; and 9-12, high school. They have since move the jr high in with the high school under one roof due to declining enrollment.

Matt Bowers 8 years, 5 months ago

If it is not broke, don't fix it. As a high school teacher in NC, I wish that our middle schools were 7, 8, & 9th grade. There are lots of reasons that come to mind, but for me the biggest is the maturity level of 9th graders. They can't drive, most are still going through the worst part of puberty, and for the most part they are not big enough to contribute to a sports team. To me 10, 11, and 12th grades at the high school makes sense. That's my two cents.

davidsmom 8 years, 5 months ago

Shawnee Mission Schools have K-6 Elementary, 7-8 Middle School, and 9-12 High School. It's been that way as long as I can remember and it seems to work just fine. That seems normal to me because that was the way the district where I grew up (in Ohio) was structured.

Steve Bradt 8 years, 5 months ago

When I graduated from LHS in 1982, there were about 1700 students. Yes the hallways were crowded at class change but it wasn't that big a deal. Now they are at 1200. The high schools can handle an extra 200 students.

kusp8 8 years, 5 months ago


the Auburn-Washburnd USD437 in Topeka is K-6, 7&8, and 9-12 in its respective schools. Just thought I'd pass that along.

Lenette Hamm 8 years, 5 months ago

Growing up in Kansas, grade school was grades one through eight. There wasn't even a kindergarten until I was probably 9 years old. Then, in 7th grade, two new junior high schools were built in the same district, housing grades 7 through 9. Seems to me at that time in history it was considered a good thing to have children of similar ages in the same schools, and the move lessened the burden of teachers and staff at the HS level. Lawrence's growth by leaps and bounds necessitated a 2nd high school and building new grade schools (unwisely, considering the number that have been closed!!) How is moving 9th grade students to the HS level going to improve the quality of their education, when those schools are already overcrowded? Not sure I follow logic here... I tend to agree with kustrong's assessment.

Laurie L Folsom 8 years, 5 months ago

Jonathan, It seems to me that even Dr. Doll's facts should be checked. The best source of information on how many 7-9 schools are left in KS would be the KSDE. It worries me that the LJW isn't double checking what district officials say.

Jonathan Kealing 8 years, 5 months ago


We were unable to locate any districts that were 7-9 as Junior High, but that doesn't mean there aren't. The crowd is always more knowledgeable than any one individual.

Jonathan Kealing Online editor

cherry1 8 years, 4 months ago


As a teacher at LHS, I can tell you we are currently close to 1400 students. 1400 students with 2 security guards. Inclusion of 9th graders would add 400 mores students, placing us at 1800. One major difference between the 80s and now are the number of rooms necessary to accommodate our identified students.

For the record, I am all for the reconfiguration because I believe having the 9th graders in the building would result in greater equity across the board in terms of curricular objectives. I just don't want us to do it next year. Give us a year to work out security, space, and curricular issues and then bring them in.

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