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Districts: R.I. Officials Question Pawtucket Desegregation Plan

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R.I. Officials Question Pawtucket Desegregation Plan

State officials have asked the Pawtucket, R.I., school district to shelve part of its plan to desegregate local schools, citing fears that the plan's student-assignment policy could have the opposite effect.

The district last month proposed an open-enrollment system that would have allowed students to apply to any city school where space was available, said Frank Walker, the director of equity and access for the state education department.

The department, however, wants the city to revert to an earlier plan that would have placed some limitations on enrollment to address racial balance in schools. The state had already approved the original plan, but the city later modified it.

District officials had not responded last week to the state's request, Mr. Walker said.

Old Idea, New Life

Officials in the Baltimore public schools may resurrect a program that once used welfare recipients as attendance monitors in schools, a spokeswoman said last week.

Superintendent Walter Amprey suggested the idea in response to a 2 percent downturn in attendance since September, said Robyn Washington, a schools spokeswoman. She added, however, that no final decision or financial commitment had been made to revive the program, which was discontinued about two years ago.

When the schools used the attendance monitors during a previous push to improve student attendance, they came from Project Independence, a city welfare-to-work program, Ms. Washington said.

In schools, the monitors checked the roll books, made telephone calls to parents of absent children, visited homes, and coordinated perfect-attendance parties, she said.

Some schools were so satisfied with the performance of the monitors that they hired some as full-time employees, Ms. Washington said. The program worked, she said, because the monitors were peers of the parents in the school.

Pension Pullout

The Atlanta school board has voted to withdraw from the city government's pension plan because the plan's costs were projected to grow much faster than its revenue source--the local tax base.

The board last month authorized Superintendent Benjamin O. Canada to begin pulling the district's funds from the city's plan and to explore alternative ways of covering district employees.

Aaron Watson, the board president, said that a board task force had recommended the change and that the city had offered no resistance. Many district employees already have opted to invest their pension money in a separate state-run account.

Student Charged in Girl's Death

Authorities have charged a 15-year-old boy with the beating death of a female classmate at a suburban St. Louis high school.

The suspect, from Florissant, Mo., was being held last week in a juvenile-detention center for the Jan. 24 slaying of Christine Smetzer, 15, at McCluer North High School, police said. The girl's badly beaten body was discovered in a restroom by another student shortly after 3 P.M.

The boy attended a district-run behavior-disorder program that is run out of the school, officials at the Ferguson/Florissant district said.

Crash Kills Students, Teacher

An automobile crash claimed the lives of six students and a teacher at a 76-student private school in Urbana, Ill.

The van from the Calvary Baptist Christian Academy was returning from a basketball game Jan. 27 when it skidded on icy pavement and collided with an oncoming tour bus near Tolono, police said. The van then caught fire, killing the students and the teacher, who was driving.

Please Call Back

Though $83 million can buy a state-of-the-art school, it may not guarantee the phones will work. Administrators, teachers, parents, and students in Atlantic City, N.J., have learned that lesson the hard way.

Telephone glitches have plagued Atlantic City High School since it opened in November. The most serious of them tells callers that the school's number is out of service.

"We built an $83 million high school, and you can't call people," said Michael Toland, the school board president. The problems have been traced to the telephone lines and a flaw in computer programming, he said.

Mark Harris, the superintendent of the Atlantic City schools, said the advanced telephone system includes a voice-mail system for teachers. The district, he said, will eventually own the system outright and control it from the school.

The system is expected to be repaired and completely installed by the end of this month, Mr. Harris said.

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