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Published in Print: August 3, 1988, as Andover Pulls Out of Joint School Plan

Andover Pulls Out of Joint School Plan

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The Andover (Mass.) School Committee has voted to pull out of a unique project that would have melded students from the affluent community with those from Lawrence, its more populous and racially diverse neighbor, in a jointly run elementary school.

One week before the 4-to-1 vote by the school committee in late June, citizens attending an Andover town meeting on the issue voted 1,153 to 200 against the "collaborative-school project.''

Local officials said turnout for the town meeting was the largest in many years.

Community 'Not Ready'

Dennis A. Richards, director of the project, said the school committee followed public opinion in voting to pull Andover from the collaborative effort.

"The school committee doesn't feel Andover is ready at this time to build a joint school with Lawrence,'' Mr. Richards said.

Under the plan, which local school officials had been working on for more than two years, the two districts would have built, staffed, and run a 1,200-student elementary school. Students from both communities could have volunteered to attend the school, with the majority coming from Lawrence.

The school also would have housed a training and professional-development center for teachers. (See Education Week, Nov. 11, 1987.)

Ninety percent of site-acquisition and construction costs and most operating costs of the school would have been paid by the state.

Michael J. Alves, project director for desegregation assistance in the state department of education, earlier had called the project--aimed at fostering racial, social, and economic integration--a "pioneering effort'' that could provide "a strong model for voluntary school desegregation.''

Mr. Alves expressed regret at the rejection of the project. "The opportunity to have a lovely new school paid for mostly by the state was really an educational gift,'' he said. "But for this to have worked, both communities had to have seen it in their self-interest to do it.''

Divided Sentiments

The project was always more controversial in Andover than in Lawrence.

The Lawrence City Council in March unanimously endorsed the project.

In Andover, however, opponents and supporters of the school formed two distinct camps, which by the end of last year were regularly sparring at public meetings and in the local press.

Among other things, opponents warned that enrollment in the school could become compulsory if not enough volunteers came forward. The town should concentrate on improving existing schools in the community, they argued.

"Andover is Andover,'' said one critic of the plan at a public debate. "People move here in part because of the school system. We don't want an urban school in a surburban area.'' --BR

Vol. 7, Issue 39 Extra Edition, Page 9

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