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Va. To Use Motion Sensors To Improve Bus Safety: Motion-sensor technology that was developed for military aircraft soon will become standard equipment on school buses in several Virginia school districts.

The state education department approved the use of motion-detection sensors on school buses after an incident in Roanoke, Va., last year in which a kindergartner was crushed under the rear wheels of a school bus.

The Roanoke, Charlottesville, and Newport News school systems have been testing the devices, which set off light and sound alarms if there is movement within a certain distance in front of or to the right side of the vehicle. Many school officials say the devices, to be installed on some buses in the fall, will be an improvement over an unreliable system they have used for years.

"Rain and falling leaves would set the old system off," said Harold Grimes, the director of pupil transportation for the Henrico County schools.

Mr. Grimes said he expects fewer false alarms when the $1,300 system is installed in the district's 260 buses.

California Spending: More than 60 percent of state school aid in California is spent at the classroom level, a new study reports.

While school officials in California's 1,001 districts are often criticized for bloated staffs and budgets, the report notes, only 8 percent of state school money goes to district operations. Classroom materials and teacher salaries account for 62 percent of spending.

The study by the rand Corporation's Institute on Education and Training, which covered 1992-93 expenditures, was sponsored by School Futures Research, a San Diego-based organization that finances research on California education issues.

Help Where It Is Needed: The South Carolina education department has decided to help 200 of the state's lowest-performing schools boost standardized-test scores in hopes of reversing a three-year slide.

State officials analyzed scores for South Carolina's 1,100 schools over three years, and have offered technical assistance to the 200 that most need it, said Rob Harper, an education department spokesman.

Department experts will work with teachers to help them perform better.

State officials will also encourage teacher-development courses and programs that involve community and business organizations in the schools.

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