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Eight Catholic elementary schools in the St. Paul area will be fully or partially merged in the next two years in response to declining enrollment and increased expenses, church officials said.

"We've tried to keep neighborhood schools open but our numbers are not making it cost-effective," Judith Ford, director of elementary schools for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said last week.

The Archdiocese's elementary enrollment has declined 64 percent in the past 26 years, while the number of schools has dropped from 156 to 111, she noted.

The St. Paul development follows announcements this year by other urban archdioceses, including those in Detroit, Milwaukee, and Washington, of plans to close schools or restructure their systems in response to declining enrollments and deepening financial problems.

Students at a Columbus, Ohio, elementary school were placed in a cardboard "isolation box" as a punishment for misbehavior, according to a report to the school board.

In the past two years, some 20 children at Fairwood Alternative Elementary School were forced to sit at desks that were surrounded on three sides by a four-foot-high box, the open side of which was against a wall or cabinet in order to isolate the child from the rest of the class.

The practice, used by about a third of the school's teachers, was discontinued last month, said Larry Mixon, executive assistant to the district's superintendent. Although the school was supposed to obtain parental consent for the punishment, he said, many parents apparently did not "envision the cardboard boxes being used."

The board is currently studying whether disciplinary action should be taken against the school's principal or teachers.


Channel One, the controversial television program for high-school students, violates teachers' contract rights, the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers has charged in a grievance.

The city's Withrow High School is one of six test sites for the news and advertising program, which is produced by Whittle Communications.

The cft argues that the school broke the citywide union contract when it reduced class periods by two minutes each in order to allow time for showing the 12-minute daily show.

"We have a contract that spells out the construction of the school day," Tom Mooney, president of the union, said last week.

Although the cft executive council also has adopted a resolution opposing Channel One on educational grounds, the grievance is based strictly on the contract, Mr. Mooney explained.

Withrow's principal already has dismissed the grievance, but the union has appealed the decision, he noted.


The St. Paul school board has reinstated spring parent-teacher conferences at secondary schools after parents reacted angrily to cost-saving plans to cancel the meetings.

Mary C. Mackbee, director of secondary curriculum and instruction for the district, said officials had planned to cancel the conferences because of poor attendance and the high cost of paying overtime to teachers for the evening meetings.

But critics warned that the proposal would diminish parental involvement. So the board agreed this month to reinstate the conferences on a reduced scale and allow teachers not to attend if few parents sign up.


At least 250 junior-high-school students in Jefferson County, Colo., have been suspended after walking out of school to protest teacher cuts.

Some 3,500 students from more than a dozen Denver-area schools participated in the demonstrations last month, district officials said.

The district plans to eliminate 93 teaching positions in the 7th through 12th grades because of declining enrollments. Each displaced teacher has been offered a job in the elementary schools, where there are 200 vacancies, said Glen E. Keller Jr., president of the school board.


Failing to meet a federal filing deadline may have cost the St. Ignatius, Mont., school district one-quarter of its operating budget.

Cutbacks and a consolidation of administrative duties caused officials to miss by a week the Jan. 31 deadline for applying for impact aid, Superintendent Doug Reisig explained.

The district was due to receive $400,000, in lieu of property taxes that cannot be collected on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

District officials turned for help to members of Montana's Congressional delegation, who are seeking legislation to extend the deadline to March 15, Mr. Reisig said last week.

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