Members of the Lawrence school board voted Thursday night to close all four of the district's junior high schools, but that didn't come as a shock.
The closing plan — shut the junior highs down at the end of the day June 30, then reopen them as middle schools at the beginning of July 1 — was a mere formality, part of the district's ongoing reconfiguration of schools to promote students success, etc.
Farewell junior highs. Hail middle schools.
But board members also voted to seek entirely new names for the schools themselves. Gone would be the familiar Central, South, Southwest and West names that have been on the junior highs for years.
Now that the buildings are becoming middle schools beginning in 2011-12, four board members — Mary Loveland, Marlene Merrill, Rich Minder and Vanessa Sanburn — voted to go in a different direction, or at least give the public a chance to encourage them to approve new names if so recommended.
"We can, as a community, come up with more creative names," Sanburn said. "Let's give the schools the opportunity to discuss it. We can always come back and keep them the same."
So let's give them some advice.
Go ahead and e-mail email@example.com your ideas for naming the middle schools. Or post them in the comments below. Don't hesitate to offer your reasoning, or your connection to the school, or anything else you think might help the process along.
We here at First Bell plan to stay on this one for a while.
Attention, parents of fifth- and sixth-graders in the Lawrence school district: The superintendent wants you to search their backpacks today.
The target: A note passed out at school, one providing all you need to know about upcoming open houses for next year’s middle schools.
“Find that piece of information,” Doll said Thursday night, urging parents. “This is really important.”
Middle School Orientation Info Sheet ( .PDF )
But just in case your student doesn’t want you digging through their stuff — these are going to be middle schoolers, after all — we here at First Bell can give you the basic facts:
• “Central” Middle School (the current Central Junior High School): Parental orientation is Feb. 15, at 5:30 p.m. for parents of fifth-graders and at 6:15 p.m. for parents of sixth-graders.
• “South” Middle School (the current South Junior High School): Parental orientation is at 5:45 p.m. Feb. 17 for parents of fifth- and sixth-graders.
• “Southwest” Middle School (the current Southwest Junior High School): Parental orientation is at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 17 for parents of fifth- and sixth-graders.
• “West” Middle School (the current West Junior High School): Parental orientation is Feb. 17, at 6 p.m. for parents of fifth-graders and at 7 p.m. for parents of sixth-graders.
Need more information? Either click here or download the "Middle School Orientation Info Sheet" you see here to get the actual document going out today in backpacks.
Thursday night’s meeting of the Lawrence school board didn’t include much pomp and circumstance, but the future of the Lawrence school district’s high school graduations did come up.
Board members acknowledge being open to the idea of scheduling 2012 graduation ceremonies for Free State and Lawrence high schools either during a single weeknight or two consecutive weeknights.
The goal: Avoid conflicting with Kansas University’s graduation, which already is set for May 20, 2012, and keep from leaving seniors hanging until the next weekend, which would be Memorial Day weekend and a full 10 days after they had taken their last finals.
Potential solution: Conduct graduations on successive evenings, such as Monday, May 21 and Tuesday, May 22. Also possible: Conduct both ceremonies Tuesday: at 6 p.m. for one school and 8 p.m. for another.
Board members made no decisions Thursday. Instead, they referred the issue back to the district’s calendar committee for a recommendation, expected to be back for approval Jan. 24.
Teams from three of Lawrence’s soon-to-be middle schools are participating Saturday in the Future City regional competition at Kansas State University, in Manhattan.
The competition is part of a national program that allows eighth-, seventh- and — this, year, for the first time — sixth-graders in “conceptualizing, innovating and implementing ground-breaking infrastructure, delivery systems, technologies, devices and products.”
That’s right, engineering.
This year’s assignment involves health care. Specifically: “Providing a Reliable and Effective Health Care Product or System the Improves a Sick, Injured or Disabled Patient’s Quality of Life and Comfort.”
Lawrence’s entries come from Central, Southwest and West junior high schools.
Winners in Manhattan will advance to the finals Feb. 18-22, during National Engineers Week, in Washington, D.C.
Grand prize: a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.
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