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Wichita District To Establish Magnet School in City Hall

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School officials in Wichita, Kan., have apparently concluded that if you can't fight city hall, you may as well join it.

In what is being called the first such arrangement of its kind in the nation, the city's school district has reached an agreement with Mayor Bob Knight to establish a magnet high school housed entirely in city hall.

The Downtown Law, Public, and Social Service Magnet High School, scheduled to open next fall, will serve students interested in public administration and related careers.

In addition to taking classes in specially renovated facilities on the ninth floor of the 13-story city-hall building, students will have opportunities for internships, seminars, observation, and research in the "real world" offices of municipal agencies, according to a district spokesman, Murray Harris.

For example, he said, students will be able to draw on the resources of the police and public-works departments in the building, as well as visit the county courthouse across the street, the state bar association's law library down the block, and social-service agencies located nearby.

In addition, he noted, judges, lawyers, and elected officials will be readily available to serve as guest speakers.

The school will offer only social8studies and English classes and is aimed at students who have already completed their other graduation requirements in the district's comprehensive high school.

According to Mr. Harris, about 100 students, most of them juniors, will be accepted for enrollment the first year.

The program is expected to expand to serve 200 students in the 11th and 12th grades by next year.

A particularly appropriate feature of the program, Mr. Harris added, is that the school itself will be organized as a laboratory for the governmental process.

He said the school will have two legislative chambers: Students will act on student issues, and the faculty will address other matters.

The principal will have veto power over student and faculty decisions, Mr. Harris said, but the veto can be overridden.

Officials say the program will also strive to avoid the label of elitism that often accompanies magnet schools.

"It is our desire to have this magnet school serve the spectrum of students," Mr. Harris said.

Another district spokesman, Jim Copple, characterized the school as a "vertical magnet."

"I've talked to a gifted minority student who's bored in the comprehensive high school and wants to be a lawyer," Mr. Copple said. "I've4talked with a student who's a potential dropout, but who wants to be a policeman."

"They both want to come here," he said. "And when they do, these kids will not just be studying together, they'll have to learn to depend on each other."

"When we do a mock trial, for example," Mr. Copple added, "the student lawyer will have to rely on the student police officer's crime report."

He noted that community members will also take part in the design of the school program.

Mr. Harris predicted that the school will be able to admit all students who apply for a slot this year. The selection process for later years has not yet been established.

The school has a five-year lease on the city-hall space, which had been used as a storage area.

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